Why Parents Should Talk to their Infants?

Why Parents Should Talk to their Infants?

Have you ever wondered why mothers, in particular, talk to their tiny infants?  After all, the infant doesn’t understand a word she is saying, and even a toddler seemingly can’t understand most of what is being said.   But there is research that shows that the more a parent talks to their child before they are three, the more intelligent the child will be.  Here’s what’s really interesting.  Based on a 10 year study in which researchers  monitored how much the parents talked to their child, they found that there was a direct correlation between the number of words spoken to the child by the time the chid was three, and his academic success at the age of nine.  What is remarkable about this study is the evidence that the impact of the words being spoken to the child begins even before birth, as the parents talk to the child while still in the womb.

The study compared two groups of parents–one group was what they called the more favored environments and the other group was from disadvantaged families where there wasn’t much thought given to talking to their children.  They found that even by age 18 months, those from the disadvantaged families were several months behind in their verbal development.  This was true even though all toddlers have a very limited vocabulary.  They found it wasn’t based on the child’s vocabulary–it was based on how much the parents talked to the child.

When a parent used a large vocabulary in talking to the toddler, the child would try to learn the new words from the context.  The more words the child heard and understood, the more they could understand new words.

By the time a toddler reaches two, there was a six-month disparity in the language processing skills and vocabulary of the two groups.  Although there is no direct proof, it is believed that hearing the multiplicity of words helps the brain to grow.  By the time the child is three, there can be about 1,000 trillion connections in  the brain. and the child’s experiences will determine which connections are reinforced and which are pruned.  And that determines the trajectory of the rest of the child’s life.

So parents, talk to your infant.  Continue to talk to your toddler.  Don’t just talk “baby talk”–talk “people talk” and don’t worry about their understanding everything.  The more you talk to your toddler, the more he or she will eventually understand, and the smarter your child will be by the time they are nine.

Question:  Did you now, or do you remember how you talked to your infants?  Did you “people talk” with them?

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2 Responses to Why Parents Should Talk to their Infants?

  1. Katie Karas says:

    I would love to receive your blogs. I am a LMFT with The Family Therapy Institute in Santa Barbara. Thank you.

  2. Mary says:

    Thank you for the research update. I have a 5-year old and a 2 1/2 year old. What is the effect of having more than one child? Does the firstborn get the best language “input” because mom or dad’s attention is not divided? Do second-born etc children talk more baby talk in general, thanks to listening so much to older siblings who may only be toddlers? Or is there an age where this evens out?

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