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October 2021

Gesturing in mother-child interactions

Author(s): Capirci, O., Longobardi, E., Caselli, M. C.

Journal/Book: Cognitive Develop. 1999; 14: 100 Prospect St, PO Box 811, Stamford, CT 06904-0811, USA. Ablex Publ Corp. 57-75.

Abstract: Numerous studies have indicated that when adults interact with very young children, they modify their speech in a consistent fashion. Although the characteristics of these modifications have been well documented, relatively little is known about the frequency and types of gestures that accompany adults' speech to young children. The present study was designed to provide data on maternal use of gesture during mother-toddler interactions and to assess whether maternal use of gestures changes as children's speech becomes progressively more complex. Twelve upper-middle-class Italian mother-child dyads were videotaped in their homes for 45 min when children were 16 and 20 months of age. Results indicated that mothers made use of a ''gestural motherese'' characterized by the relatively infrequent use of concrete gestures redundant with and reinforcing the message conveyed in speech. In addition, individual differences in maternal gesture and speech production were highly stable over time despite substantial changes in children's use of gesture and speech, and there was some evidence for positive relations between maternal gesture production and children's verbal and gestural production and vocabulary size within and across observations. Findings are discussed in terms of the functions that maternal gesture may serve for young language learners.

Note: Article Iverson JM, Indiana Univ, Dept Psychol, Bloomington,IN 47405 USA


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