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CHILD DEVELOPOMENT

Language development in infancy is influenced differently


by well-educated mothers and fathers, even though they
read to their young toddlers (1 to 2 years old) in broadly
similar ways.

Well-educated mothers and fathers influence language


development in their young toddlers (1 to 2 years old)
differently, even though they read to the children in broadly
similar ways.
Austrian researchers who study language development in
infancy worked with 100 mother-father-child families,
separately observing how the mother and father read the same
book to their toddlers. They identified and measured five modes
of parental behaviour during a 5½ minute parent-child
interactive session with a farm animal picture book:
 Describing-Commenting
 For example, the parent says, “There are bugs all over the
grass” or “The rabbit hops down the path.”
 Pointing-Labelling
 For example, the parent says, “Look, these are pigs!” or
“A butterfly!”
 For example, the parent says, “Is this a cat?” or “What
does the pig say?”
 Expanding-Elaborating
 For example, the parent says, “Yes, a pear. You just ate a
pear 20 minutes ago” or “I think this bowl looks like
grandma’s bowl.”
 Repeating-Imitating
 The parent repeats what the child says.
The first difference the researchers found involved a link that
was found for fathers but not for mothers between more
“repeating/imitating” and the child’s subsequent ability to
express words. Why this difference in language development
occurs needs further exploration. But the researchers postulate
that fathers may tend to interact more playfully with their
children, aiming to evoke a reply by repeating and imitating,
whilst mothers tend to use repeating and imitating indirectly to
correct the child’s utterances, in ways that do not require a
verbal response from the child.
Conversely, when mothers do more “inquiring/clarifying”,
children show enhanced language development. But when
fathers do the same thing, their children are likely to
show less ability to comprehend. The researchers postulate that
mothers may be more likely to follow their children’s lead rather
than challenge their limits, resulting in more improvement in the
children’s comprehension.
When mothers do more “pointing/labelling”, children’s
language development proceeds more strongly, but there is no
such link for fathers. The researchers postulate that fathers may
tend to do this activity more quickly—perhaps too quickly for
the children properly to comprehend what is being pointed out
or labelled.
The researchers also looked at factors that influenced how the
mothers and fathers communicated with their toddlers during the
reading activity. They measured the parent-child attachment
security for each parent-child pair as well as the educational
status of each parent. Again, they found significant differences
between mothers and fathers.
The father’s education influences children’s language
development in a way that mother’s education does not,
suggesting a social influence on fathers’ parenting that is
different from mothers’. If a father has college/university
education:
 His toddler is more likely to show more advanced language
comprehension.
 His child is more likely to display stronger attachment
security with him.
 His own mode of communicating is likely to be more
proactive – more pointing/labelling and more
describing/commenting. (It should be noted that for both
parents, higher education is linked to a greater quantity of
reading with the child.)
Mothers’ education does not influence their interaction with
their children in these ways. For mothers, the interaction seems
to be driven more by the attachment relationship with their
children. The quality of mother-toddler attachment is associated
with more expanding/elaborating, pointing/labelling and
inquiring/clarifying on the mothers’ part. This does not hold for
fathers. Mothers and fathers are similar, however, in that
stronger attachment is linked to a greater extent of reading with
a child and stronger development of language comprehension.
This is one of the first studies that has attempted to disentangle
the influences of mothers and fathers on language development
in infancy and to measure fathers’ influence separately from
mothers’.
Asked by the Child & Family Blog about the practical
implications of their study for infant language development, the
researchers suggested that parents should see one-to-one reading
with a young child more as a relationship experience than a
teaching one. It’s important to respond to children’s
contributions during reading by picking up their ideas and either
reacting in a playful way to evoke a verbal response or more
gently to build comprehension.
Header photo: Hogan. Creative Commons.

References

Teufl L, Deichmann F, Supper B & Ahnert L (2019), How


fathers’ attachment security and education contribute to early
child language skills above and beyond mothers: parent-child
conversation under scrutiny, Attachment and Human
Development
Male violence exceeds female violence by a very significant
margin. The origins of this lie in early childhood
development, with the first differences appearing in
preschool.

Two researchers in the USA, Paul Golding and Hiram E


Fitzgerald, have identified three areas that influence male
violence during early childhood development: (1) early
relationships with caregivers, (2) biological differences between
boys and girls, and (3) growing economic and social inequalities
among families in the USA, particularly the growing number of
single-parent families.
Male violence exceeds female violence by a large margin.
Starting in preschool, boys in the USA are more likely to be
disciplined and suspended for behavior problems. By
adolescence, boys are four times more likely than girls to be
arrested for violent crime. In adulthood, male violent crime is
four times more common than female violent crime. And men
are seven times more likely to commit serious violent crimes,
such as murder, rape and robbery. Among major ethnic groups
in the USA, only Asian Americans display little difference
between male violence and female violence.

Early caregiving and the emergence of male violence

Research has shown that certain deficits in early caregiving are


linked to worse outcomes for boys than for girls. For example,
sons of depressed mothers score lower than daughters on
measures of attachment at 18 months of age. Similarly, sons
who experience maternal insensitivity are more likely to display
poorer executive function and more behavioral problems in
primary school than girls who experience the same deficit at
home.
Similar differences appear in measures of fathers’ sensitivity.
For example, when fathers fail to exercise dominance during
rough-and-tumble play (that is, establishing limits so that the
child feels safe), boys are more likely than girls to show
aggression and poor control of emotions five years later.
But the question remains: Why are boys more affected by these
caregiving deficits than girls are? The authors propose that the
slower maturation of boys during infancy expands the scope for
stress in the social environment to have a negative impact on
their development. Girls are protected to an extent by their more
rapid development in early childhood

Biological and neurobiological factors

In addition to slower development, other biological differences


between boys and girls could be linked to differences in the
development of male and female violence.
 Boys are more likely to have lower resting heart rates than
girls, on average. Lower resting heart rates in children are
associated with uncomfortable mood states, seeking
stimulation, and antisocial behavior.
 Boys are more likely to have the MAOA-L gene. This gene,
when combined with abusive or neglectful caregiving in
early childhood, is associated with impulsive physical
aggression later in life.
 Boys are exposed to higher levels of testosterone in the
prenatal and perinatal periods of development and also
starting in adolescence. Children’s exposure to testosterone is
associated with less empathy and more aggression.
 Differences in the neurobiology of boys and girls at birth are
now being studied to see whether they may point to
differential vulnerability to problems in early childhood
development.

Social and cultural environment

Golding and Fitzgerald consider the expanding social, economic


and racial inequalities in the USA to be a critical factor in
increasing the risk of male violence.
The rise of single motherhood (4% of births in the 1950s, 35%
60 years later) is one factor. Single parenthood is associated
with a wide range of pressures, for example, fewer economic
resources, exposure to discrimination, more likelihood of
exposure to conflict, and more mental health problems. All these
incur risks for a mother’s ability to care for her children, to
which, as described above, boys are more susceptible.
The absence of fathers in children’s lives is linked to
developmental problems in both boys and girls, but the nature of
the problems are different: boys are more likely to show
behavior and social problems (externalizing), while girls are
more likely to show anxiety and depressive problems
(internalizing). This differential response manifests as more
aggression among boys.
Studies have shown that growing up in poor, single-parent
families has differential impacts on boys and girls . Boys from
such families are less likely to be employed in their 20s than are
girls from the same families. Boys from these families are more
likely than girls to exhibit antisocial behavior such as low self-
control and delinquency.
In the coming months, the Child & Family Blog will run a series
of research updates that expand on the emergence of male
violence, based on a collection of research articles published this
year in the Infant Mental Health Journal.
Header photo: Matt Madd. Creative Commons.
References

Golding P & Fitzgerald HE (2019), The early biopsychosocial


development of boys and the origins of violence in males, Infant
Mental Health Journal 40
Golding P & Fitzgerald HE (2017), Psychology of boys at risk:
Indicators from 0-5, Infant
Mental Health Journal 38.1
The key predictor of antisocial behavior and violent crime
(as opposed to nonviolent crime) is poor emotion regulation
in early childhood.

A very small group of boys grow up to become involved in


persistent antisocial behavior and violent offending. Research
has confirmed that there are reliable predictors of antisocial
behavior in boys as early as the age of two or three.
A key predictor of violent crime (as opposed to nonviolent
crime) is poor emotion regulation in early childhood. Where this
is linked to persistent conduct problems through childhood,
particularly when combined with hyperactivity/attention
problems, there is a correlation with male violence and
antisocial behavior in adolescence and early adulthood.
The problem mainly relates to boys. Research has suggested that
the male brain is more vulnerable to adverse influences in early
childhood. See Male violence: Early childhood development
predictors.
The research suggests that violence prevention programs should
prioritise the development of self-regulation skills in boys living
in urban poverty, through working directly with them and
through parenting programs. Some programs have already been
successful in this regard. The High-Scope Perry Preschool
Study reduced early violent antisocial behavior by targeting self-
regulation skills in early childhood. Other programs, such as
the Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies (PATHS)
curriculum and Family Check-Up, have improved children’s
emotion regulation and reduced conduct problems. Positive
parenting is often associated with the improvement in child
conduct in these programs.
Stephanie Sitnick and colleagues have carried out research into
early childhood precursors of male violence and antisocial
behavior in young adulthood. They studied data from the Pitt
Mother & Child Project, a study that followed low-income high-
risk youth from the age of one until they were 20 years old; 310
families participated at the start, and 256 were still going at the
end. The researchers measured child oppositional behavior,
child emotion regulation and quality of the home environment.
They also measured conduct problems throughout the period
(physical aggression, oppositional behavior, temper tantrums)
and hyperactivity/impulsivity/low attention. At 20 years, they
measured violence and antisocial behavior both through court
records and by interviewing the young adults. Their key finding
was the link between poor early emotion regulation and adult
antisocial behavior and violence.
A considerable amount of other research has linked early
childhood development problems with later male violence and
antisocial behavior, particularly impulsive, reactive crimes.
Correlates include:
 impairments in early executive function
 poorer recognition of facial emotions linked to antisocial
behavior
 poor early attachment and rejecting parenting
 oppositional behavior in early childhood
 poor self-control, particularly for those living in poverty.
Other factors linked to violence and antisocial behavior,
reviewed by Adrian Raine, include the following.
Genetics: Studies of aggression in identical versus nonidentical
twins show 65% heritability for aggression. Heritability for
domestic violence is over 50%. Heritability relates more to
impulsive/reactive violence. The genetics are complex and the
only single gene found to occur more in violent offenders is
MAOA (Monoamine Oxidase-A).
Brain impairments: Neurological impairments can be seen in
several parts of violent offenders’ brains relating to emotion
regulation, moral decision-making and impulse control. In
particular, reduced structure and reduced glucose metabolism is
often observed in the prefrontal cortex. The striatum is also
more likely to be enlarged. The striatum is associated with the
reward system and may suggest an oversensitivity to rewards in
violent offenders.
Physical influences: The research suggests a variety of physical
predictors of antisocial behavior and violence.
 Poor prenatal nutrition is associated with increased risk of
antisocial personality disorder in adulthood. Child
malnutrition is linked to aggression in childhood. One fatty
acid critical for brain development, omega-3, is not produced
by the body but is present in some foods, such as fish—and
countries with diets high in fish have lower murder rates.
 Maternal cigarette smoking during pregnancy is linked to
persistent offending. These links are stronger when other
sources of stress exist, such as single-parent family status or
an unwanted pregnancy.
 Alcohol consumption during pregnancy has been shown in
many studies to be a risk factor for adult antisocial behavior
and violence. Paternal alcohol consumption is also linked,
possibly through epigenetic inheritance.
 Some birth complications, such as hypoxia, are linked to
adult impulsive violent
 Lead exposure has been linked to adult antisocial behavior
and violence. Lead is neurotoxic and affects boys more than
girls, another indication of boys’ increased vulnerability to
adverse influences in early childhood.
 Some traumatic brain injuries are linked to later violent
behaviors.
Header photo: Ceci. Creative Commons.

References

Sitnick SL, Galán CA & Shaw DS (2019), Early childhood


predictors of boys’ antisocial and violent behavior in early
adulthood, Infant Mental Health Journal 40
Raine A (2019), A neurodevelopmental perspective on male
violence, Infant Mental Health Journal 40
LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT IN INFANCY

Infants tend to pay more attention and respond


more eagerly to baby talk than to normal adult
conversation. The playfully exaggerated and high-
pitched tone your voice takes lights up your little
one's mind.

Eighty percent of her brain’s physical development happens


during her first 3 years. As her brain gets bigger, it also forms
the connections it needs to think, learn, and process information.
These connections, called synapses, form at a super-fast rate,
about 700 per second in the first few years.

Speaking to your baby fires up those important synapses in the


part of her brain that handles language. The more words she
hears, the stronger those mental connections get. That process
can strengthen your child’s future language skills and her overall
ability to learn.

Infants who get more baby talk know more words by age 2 than
their peers.
The origins of lie in early childhood development

Whether we choose to admit it or not, lying is a part of life


(would I lie to you?). From casual "white lies" to more
complicated scams and major deceptions, lying seems to
be at the root of a bewildering number of political and
economic scandals. The question of whether someone is
telling the truth seems to comes up time and again in
many of our social interactions as adults and recognizing
lies becomes a major challenge.

But how early do we learn to lie? And what purpose does


it serve in young children? While measuring lying
behaviour in young children through laboratory
experiments has its own limitations, previous study results
suggest that lying behaviour can be seen in children as
young as forty-two months. Anecdotal evidence provided
by parents and caregivers suggests that lying behaviour
can been seen in children who are even younger although
it is somewhat different from the lies we tell as we grow
older.

According to a developmental model of lying first proposed


by Victoria Talwar and Kang Lee, children around the age
of two to three years begin by telling primary lies which are
designed to conceal transgressions but fail to take the
mental state of the listener into consideration. Around the
age of four, children learn to tell secondary lies which are
more plausible and geared to the listener's mental
development. By age seven or eight, children learn to
tell tertiary lies which are more consistent with known facts
and follow-up statements.

Since the executive functioning skills needed for lying are


already in place for chldren as young as two, it is probably
not surprising that parents have reported seeing their own
children attempt lying behaviour at that age. In 1877,
Charles Darwin suggested that children as young as thirty
months are capable of lying after seeing his young son
trying to deceive him. More recently, a team of British
psychologists used a natural observation method to spot
37 examples of lying behaviour in a 30-month-old
child. Child researchers at the University of Waterloo
reported that 65 percent of two-year-olds and 94 percent
of four-year-olds lied at least once.

While naturalistic observation by researchers is more


impartial than the anecdotal evidence provided by even
eminent scientists like Darwin, there are still problems
involved in ruling out other possible explanations for what
the researchers are seeing. Laboratory studies suggest
that children are capable of deceiving people (such as
learning to hide toys) but it is debatable whether
spontaneous lying can be effectively studied under
laboratory conditions.

There appears to be a link between a child's cognitive


abilities and their ability to lie successfully. Along with
executive functioning, children need to be capable
of inhibitory control, i.e., the ability to suppress a response
while completing a separate goal. A good
working memory is also needed since children need to be
capable of retaining details about the lie and the
truth. Research looking at lying in young children
suggests that inhibitory control is especially important
since children with poor control are not effective liars while
working memory may not be as useful.

A new study published in Developmental


Psychology examined lying in two and three-year-old
children and some of the cognitive skills involved
with deception. Conducted by Angela Evans of Brock
University and Kang Lee of the University of Toronto, the
study used a series of executive functioning and verbal
tasks as well as two deception tasks to measure lying
behaviour. The first deception task involved children
being invited to play a guessing game in which a toy was
placed behind them and they were asked to guess they
toy from a characteristic sound (such as quacking if it was
a toy duck). After children successfully guessed two
toys, the experimenter pretended to get a storybook and
the children were asked not to peek at a toy that had been
placed behind .
The development on key predictor of
antisocial behavior and violent crime

Research on early childhood predictors of


violent behaviors in early adulthood is
limited. The current study investigated
whether individual, family, and community
risk factors from 18 to 42 months of age were
predictive of violent criminal arrests during
late adolescence and early adulthood using a
sample of 310 low‐income male participants
living in an urban community. In addition,
differences in trajectories of overt conduct
problems (CP), hyperactivity/attention
problems (HAP), and co‐occurring patterns of
CP and HAP from age 1½ to 10 years were
investigated in regard to their relationship to
violent and nonviolent behaviors, depression,
and anxiety at age 20. Results of multivariate
analyses indicated that early childhood
family income, home environment, emotion
regulation, oppositional behavior, and
minority status were all significant in
distinguishing violent offending boys from
those with no criminal records. In addition,
trajectories of early childhood CP, but not
attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, were
significantly related to self‐reports of violent
behavior, depressive symptoms, and anxiety
symptoms. Implications for the prevention of
early childhood risk factors associated with
adolescent and adult violent behavior for
males are discussed.

Previous work with the current sample (Sitnick


et al., 2017) identified multiple proximal and
distal risk factors associated with adolescents’
engagement in violent crime. However, it is
unclear if the same risk factors continue to be
influential during early adulthood when
perpetrators are no longer considered minors
within the legal system. Thus, the current study
aims to determine if previously established early
childhood predictors of adolescent violent
behavior extend to violent criminal behavior in
early adulthood. In addition, others have identified
childhood conduct problems (CP) and attention deficit
hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as risk factors for
increased antisocial behavior (AB), and in some cases,
violent behavior during adolescence (Moffitt, 1990;
Shaw, Lacourse, & Nagin, 2005). As children are often
not diagnosed with ADHD until school age, the
current study will investigate symptoms of ADHD in
the form of hyperactivity/attention problems (HAP).
Specifically, the current study investigates whether
early‐starting trajectories of CP and HAP are
predictive of violent behaviors and other indicators of
maladjustment in early adulthood.
REFLECTION