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Merideth Gattis, Tuesday, November 18

The Active Child and Early Language Development

Merideth Gattis
Cardiff University, UK


Historically, theories of human development have differed in the extent to which children are viewed as active contributors to their own development versus the product of social environments. The construct of joint attention implicitly incorporates the notion of an active child because joint attention episodes involve active engagement with a social partner, such as a parent, and some third entity, such as a toy or another person. Numerous longitudinal studies have now established that joint attention is an important precursor ability to language development. However, the nature of the study designs and measurement tools in these studies has often led to an entity-like conceptualization of joint attention abilities rather than an activity-based conceptualization. In this talk, I will describe and evaluate various ways in which infants can be active contributors to early language development through joint attention. My aims are 1) to identify specific, active infant behaviours, 2) to identify specific, active parental behaviours, and 3) to compare the relative contributions of each to early language development. I will draw on analyses from First Steps, a longitudinal study of infants from birth to 18 months (N=39) that included at-home diaries and structured parent report as well as naturalistic observations. The first set of analyses I will present evaluates and confirms that infant self-locomotion contributes to early vocabulary development. The second set of analyses I will present evaluates and confirms that infant following of maternal attention contributes to vocabulary development. Finally, I will discuss how each of these infant contributions to language development interact with, and go beyond, maternal contributions.

Where and when:
15:45-17:00 Nov 18, 2014
MPI Colloquium Room

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The Netherlands

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