Toddlers start conversations NOT mothers an analysis of more than 1,400 hours of recordings reveals
- Experts miked up 17 toddlers gathering day-long recordings of their speech
- They used automatic speech recognition technology to sift through the clips
- New research helps us understand how parents interact with their children
- They found young children not only initiate conversation more than their mums and dads but also choose the topics
Toddlers are the ones that instigate conversation with their parents, contrary to popular belief that claims mothers encourage communication, a study suggests.
Researchers found that young children not only initiate conversation more than their mums and dads, but they also choose the topics.
Conversation is important for language development and previous studies have shown that children begin to develop the skill at a young age, researchers claim.
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Toddlers are great at getting the conversation started, according to a new study. Pictured: a Child contributing audio recordings in the Speech and Language Lab at Washington State University
The new research lays down the groundwork to understand how mothers and fathers interact with their children.
It also provides a template of how to use high-tech methods that are only very recently available to target new approaches to help parents interact.
Experts miked up 17 toddlers – about 30-months-old – and gathered day-long audio recordings of conversations with their parents.
The team used automatic speech recognition technology to sift through more than 1,400 hours of recordings.
Study leader associate professor Mark VanDam, of Washington State University, said: ‘I was surprised that kids were drivers of conversation.
‘This is exciting, because kids are active participants in shaping their own world. They have the freedom to pick what they talk about and when.
He said that this type of work would have been impossible a few decades ago but with the power of computers and automatic speech recognition they have been able to develop a new dataset that takes place in a naturalistic setting rather than in a lab.
The team started the study to understand how toddlers interacted with each parent.
In particular, they wanted to explore who initiated the conversation in the family and if there were any differences in the conversations between boys and girls.
The team normalised the conversations to account for families that were naturally chattier.
They found that children more frequently initiated conversations with their parents, followed by the mother and then the father. The study was limited to different-sex parenting households.
Conversation is important for language development and previous studies have shown that children begin to develop the skill at a young age. Researchers found young children not only initiate conversation more than their mums and dads, but also choose the topics (stock image)
Doctor VanDam said: ‘There is a ton of evidence that girls at this age have a better command of language, but we found no difference in how boys and girls initiated conversation.
‘We also did not see any sex differences in how the children spoke to either parent.’
He said the results lay the groundwork to understand how mothers and fathers interact with their children.
‘These results provide a template of how to use high-tech methods that are only very recently available to target new approaches to help moms and dads interact with their kids,’ he added.
‘We could use this information to develop new targeted therapies to help children that have language delay or behavioural issues and to improve the ways we interact with computers.’
The findings are due to be presented at the annual meeting of the Acoustical Society of America in Kentucky.
WHAT COMMUNICATION SKILLS DOES A TODDLER DEVELOP?
Language development explodes from between the ages of two and four according to Dr Amos Grunebaum, an American obstetrician and gynaecologist.
A child’s vocabulary, understanding and communication skills flourish at around these ages, he says.
These skills are an essential foundation for how a child interacts with others and they significantly impact cognitive, social and emotional development and their future lives in school and beyond.
By the time a child reaches its second birthday it should have mastered pointing to common objects; three body parts; labelling familiar objects such as cup, dog and shoe.
Most two years olds can: follow a two step instruction; use more than 50 words – although half will be unintelligible; make phrases of two or more words; use simple plurals and personal pronouns; know the names of close friends and family.
Most three-year-olds will be able to follow two or three step commands and speak in three to four word sentences.
They should now be much easier to understand and have a vocabulary of around 200 words.
They should be inquisitive, asking many questions – why, what, who, where, when – and be able to say their name, age and gender.
They may understand place words like ‘in’, ‘on’ and ‘under’ and be able to name a best friend.
Their conversation will begin to become more interactive and two-way.
As a child transitions to preschool, their understanding is becoming much more refined.
They will begin to understand time words and order words – today, tomorrow, first, next.
They will be getting better at following more complex instructions and she should be able to hear and understand speech in a variety of settings.
Their pronunciation will be improving but she may still struggle with difficult consonant like sh, th and l.
They may begin to name letters and numbers. They may be able to retell events and keep a simple conversation going.
Their personality will begin to shine through as she chooses topics of conversation that interest her.
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