Mother’s Conversation With Baby Is Shaping Baby’s Brain

Psychologists from the University of York have demonstrated that the type of language used by parents, particularly mothers, while talking to their babies affects the children’s ability to comprehend the thoughts of others.

Determining The Association

Lead author Dr Elizabeth Kirk, Lecturer in York’s Department of Psychology, enrolled 40 mothers and their babies for the study. The babies were 10, 12, 16 and 20 months old. The idea was to study the effect of maternal mind-mindedness – ability to ‘tune-in’ to their babies thoughts and emotions.

The researchers kept records of parental language while mother and baby played together for 10 minutes. An entry was logged every time the mother made a ‘mind-related’ comment – an inference about the child’s thinking processes from his or her behavior. For example, if the baby was having difficulty opening the door of a toy car, the mother would infer that the baby was ‘frustrated’.

These mother-baby pairs were revisited when their children were five to six years old, and their socio-cognitive abilities were assessed. Researchers used the ‘strange-stories’ method – reading a fictional vignette to the child that contains any one of the following social scenarios: lies, contrary emotions, white lies, pretend, persuasion, joke, misunderstanding, forget, figure of speech, double-bluff, sarcasm or appearance versus reality.

At the end of the story, the children were made to answer comprehensive questions followed by a test to assess whether they had correctly understood the type of mental manipulation stated in the story.

Baby’s Brain Development: Deciphering The Results

Findings of the study, published in the British Journal of Developmental Psychology indicate a significant, positive correlation between mind-related comments (when a child is 10, 12, 20 months old) and his score on the strange stories test. This suggests that a child’s ability to comprehend the thoughts of others, at the age of five, is strongly related to the mind-mindedness of their mothers when they were babies.

“These findings demonstrate how a mother’s ability to tune-in to her baby’s thoughts and feelings early on helps her child to learn to empathize with the mental lives of other people”, Dr Kirk further explained.

Important Consequences

These results highlight the serious consequences of the lack of mother’s mind-mindedness could have on the social development of her child. The study highlights the critical role of mother-baby conservational skills during his/her upbringing.

8 Comments
  1. mish taltos says

    mother conversation increases your child’s confidence and self esteem….

  2. Dr J Anderson says

    To keep babies from crying, caregivers must pay attention to the nonverbal signals babies give restlessness, flailing arms etc and nip discomfort in the bud.

  3. mish taltos says

    i think so not only the mother conversation is enough, your surrounding environment also depend to shaping babies brain

  4. mish taltos says

    mothers might want to pair their youngsters up so they can babble more with their own kind

  5. Dr J Anderson says

    Some parents spank or hit their babies, This is very bad, it has long term negative effects.

  6. mish taltos says

    The baby will have less trust in himself, mothers have taught him that his urges are unimportant and even bad to have ,talk about how to undermine self development

  7. mish taltos says

    If mother punish babies for wanting to explore, they may undermine motivation for learning…

  8. mish taltos says

    for shaping your babies brain arrange gatherings with other families, exchange babysitting, share meal making and clean up

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