Tuesday, January 28th, 2014
Young children who have close relationships with older siblings may have an easier time developing good vocabularies. This is only one way in which healthy sibling relationships may help influence the development of younger siblings, according to new research published in the journal Pediatrics. More from Reuters:
How older children interact with their siblings is tied to the younger children’s development, Canadian researchers found.
“The idea is that here is this effect of being in a large family where you don’t get that many resources, but if you get an older sibling that’s really attuned to your needs that would be a modifying effect,” Jennifer Jenkins told Reuters Health.
Jenkins is the study’s senior author and the Atkinson Chair of Early Child Development and Education at the University of Toronto.
Previous research had found that children from large families tend to score lower on vocabulary, IQ and other academic tests, compared to those from smaller families.
“That’s been pretty well examined that the larger the family, the less good the child’s skill in language and IQ,” Jenkins said. “It’s really thought of as a resource dilution.”
For example, if a couple has a second child, the attention they spent on their first child will then be split among both kids.
She cautioned that whatever effect a large family may have on a child is small, however.
To see whether an older sibling can possibly fill in for some of that diluted attention, the researchers used data from an existing trial that included families from Toronto with 385 young children who had a sibling at least four years older.
Mothers and older siblings were scored on how they interacted with the younger child.
For example, the researchers scored whether the older sibling or mother were sensitive to the younger sibling’s abilities and gave positive feedback.
The younger sibling’s vocabulary was also tested by having the child point to an object’s picture after its named was said out loud.
The researchers found that children with many siblings tended to score lower on the vocabulary test, compared to those who had smaller families.
Children from large families whose older siblings scored higher during the interaction, however, tended to score higher on the test than those whose older brother or sister scored lower during the interaction.
The association between an older sibling’s so-called cognitive sensitivity and the younger child’s score remained strong even when the researchers also accounted for traits that might have influenced the results, such as gender and age.
While the overall association may be small, Jenkins said many traits that are associated with similar cognitive delays are of a similar size.
“It’s multiple and multiple accumulating influences,” she said. “I think all of these small influences are worth paying attention to.”
Image: Siblings, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013
A new study published in the journal Pediatrics has linked frequent spanking of young children with problems including aggressive behavior and vocabulary and language delays later in childhood. More from CBS News:
Children who were spanked often early in life by their mothers were more likely to be aggressive later in childhood compared to kids who weren’t spanked at all, a study published in Pediatrics on Oct. 21 concluded. Being spanked by dads was also linked to vocabulary and language problems in kids.
“These effects are long-lasting. They aren’t just short-term problems that wash out over time. And the effects were stronger for those who were spanked more than twice a week,” co-author Michael MacKenzie, an associate professor at the Columbia University School of Social Work in New York, told HealthDay.
The study involved more than 1,900 families in 20 medium to large U.S. cities who were enrolled in the long-running Fragile Families and Child Well-Being study. Parents were asked how often they spanked their child when he or she was age 3 and 5, and a child’s aggressive behavior and vocabulary were evaluated at 3 and 9 years.
In total, 57 percent of mothers and 40 percent of fathers spanked their child at the age of 3. When the child was 5, 52 percent of mothers and 33 percent of fathers spanked their kids.
Mothers who were still spanking their child by the age of 5 — no matter how often — were more likely to have a child who was more aggressive than his or her peers by the time they turned nine. Mothers who spanked their child at least twice a week when they were 3 also had children more likely to have these problem behaviors.
Children who were spanked at least twice a week by their fathers at the age of 5 were more likely to score lower on vocabulary and language-comprehension tests.
Image: Parent angry with child, via Shutterstock
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Friday, June 28th, 2013
Non-verbal cues such as pointing or gesturing may help develop a child’s vocabulary, even though it doesn’t involve saying new words. This is the finding of a new University of Chicago study that examined how vocabulary-building–a known predictor of later school success–might be encouraged in homes with all types of communication. More from Time.com:
Child development experts have long advised parents to talk to their babies, even if their infants can’t talk back. The more a parent talks to his child, the more words they are likely to learn. Now comes new work suggesting that even non-verbal cues such as pointing to objects can encourage vocabulary building regardless of socioeconomic status. It’s not just the quantity of words spoken, then, that’s important but the quality of the learning environment that may make the greatest difference.
To come to this conclusion, researchers from the University of Chicago videotaped the daily interactions of 50 parents and their toddlers over two 90-minute sessions when the kids were 14 months to 18 months. In order to tease apart the parents who used non-verbal cues from those who relied more on verbal communication, the researchers bleeped out a key word from 10 randomly selected 40-second clips of these recordings. They asked another 218 adults to watch these clips and guess which word the parent was saying at the beep.
The scientists then defined those situations in which the participants were easily able to determine the word — for example, guessing that the recorded parent was saying “book” if he said it while the child was walking to a bookshelf — as involving non-verbal cues, and classified the environments in which it was harder to guess the missing word as being primarily verbal ones.
Most of the parents used non-verbal cues from 5% to 38% of the time. Three years later, about the time the youngsters entered kindergarten, the researchers assessed their vocabularies and found that children with the biggest vocabularies also had parents whose beeped-out words were more easily deduced in the recording clips. Giving new words context with non-verbal cues could explain about 22% of the difference in vocabularies among children whose parents used them v. those who did not.
Image: Mother talking to child, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, May 29th, 2013
The Scripps National Spelling Bee, for the first time in its 86-year history, is requiring that contestants know the meanings of words, in addition to spelling them correctly. The new skill will account for 50 percent of a contestant’s total score in the contest, which began May 28. CNN has more:
Spelling Bee Director Paige Kimble said the rule change is a natural extension of the contest.
“The reason for the change is all about extending the bee’s commitment to its purpose, which long has been not only to help students improve their spelling, but also to increase the vocabulary, learn concepts and develop correct English usage,” she said.
This year’s whiz kids aren’t just good at putting vowels and consonants in the right order; 116 of them speak more than one language, and math is most frequently cited as their favorite subject, not spelling.
They range in age from 8 to 14, but nearly 90% of them are between 12 and 14 years old. The kids come from all 50 U.S. states and several American territories, plus the Bahamas, Canada, China, Ghana, Jamaica, Japan and South Korea.
Winning the bee has its perks. It’s not just about the $30,000 cash prize from Scripps and engraved trophy — past winners have returned home to a hero’s welcome and met with the president.
This year’s spelling competition begins Tuesday at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland. ESPN will broadcast the preliminary rounds starting Wednesday, with the finals slated for Thursday night.
Image: Dictionary page, via Shutterstock
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