Exploring contexts that facilitate optimal infant and toddler verbal and non-verbal communication
Associations were examined between amount and type of communicative behavior and several contexts: child's age, communication partner (e.g., adult, peer), communication style (i.e., adult- or child-directed), and temperament. Researchers removed a common bias featured in much of the research on infant and toddler communication, the use of a mother or a classroom caregiver as the communication partner. To remove this bias, the children participated in four trials: one solo (alone) play for baseline information, one peer-play and two adult-child play interactions (one adult-directed and one child-directed). Twenty two infants and toddlers from 6-to-26 months of age were videotaped and coded for nonverbal communication (e.g. showing, pointing, taking, and offering gestures) and verbal communication (e.g. vocalizations or non-word utterances and verbalizations or speaking words that were understood by the researchers), as well as affect (mood) during the four trials. A temperament scale was also completed by each child's teacher to examine the relationship between temperament and children's communicative behaviors. Researchers hypothesized: 1) Toddlers will verbally communicate (includes both vocalizations and verbalizations) more than infants; 2) All children will vocalize and verbalize more with adults than with peers; 3) The adult-directed trial will encourage higher amounts of communication from all children than the child-directed trial; and 4) Children with higher intensity, activity, approachability, positive mood and adaptability scores on the Carey Temperament Scale will vocalize and gesture more frequently in all trials. Data analyses revealed that toddlers communicated more than infants the adult-directed trials yielded more communication than the solo and peer trials did, though the toddlers held the weight of the interactions when both groups were combined; the two adult trials were comparable, and not significantly different from each other. Temperament did not appear to affect young children's communication production, with the exception of a negative correlation between positive mood ratings and overall communication. Several other analyses examining correlations between other behaviors were also significant. In sum, contexts that facilitate optimal interactions differ for infants and toddlers. Adults should keep these results in mind when communicating with very young children, as there is more than one "optimal" context of communication for infants and toddlers.