Link Between Adult Speech and Children’s Cognitive Skills


Researchers identified a link between the amount of adult speech a child is exposed to and their cognitive skills, including reasoning, numeracy and shape awareness. Meaning, if you’re a natural chatterbox, you may actually be setting your child up for academic success.

The study was conducted by a research team at the University of York, where they gained insight on the lives of children ages 2 through 4 by fitting tiny audio recordings into their clothing. It allowed them to analyze more than 100 children and their interactions with parents at home for up to 16 hours a day. Parents were also asked to complete tasks with their children involving drawing, copying and matching designed to test their child’s cognitive skills.

“We found that the quantity of adult spoken words that children hear is positively associated with their cognitive ability,” says lead author Katrina d’Apice, a PhD student from the University of York’s Department of Education. “However, further research is needed to explore the reasons behind this link—it could be that greater exposure to language provides more learning opportunities for children, but it could also be the case that more intelligent children evoke more words from adults in their environment.”

The researchers also found high quality adult speech may have benefits for children’s linguistic development. Kids who interacted with adults who used a diverse vocabulary knew a greater variety of words themselves.

The study also analyzed the recordings to look at the impact different parenting styles might have on the children’s behavior. They found positive parenting was associated with children showing fewer signs of restless, aggressive and disobedient behaviors.

Want to know other ways you can kickstart your little one’s learning abilities. Experts say kids who do this task with their parents may learn up to 1 million more words than their peers.



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