Dads Don't Do Baby Talk—And That's OK

Just don't expect them to baby talk

According to a new study from Washington State University, Spokane, a mom tends to adopt a singsony voice when addressing her infant, even raising the pitch of her voice some 40 hertz. Meanwhile a dad's voice barely changes when chatting with his child. In other words, men use the same tone of voice whether they're talking binkies with their baby or baseball stats with their buddy.

And it's not just our tone of voice that's different, explained Mark VanDam, the head of the study and a professor in the university's speech and hearing sciences department. "Moms talk a lot more, both in overall words and in minutes of talking," he told the Seattle Times. "Dads use fewer words. Even though they speak fewer words, they use a wider variety of words."

Thankfully, this duality can be beneficial for babies"We think that the fathers are doing things that are conducive to their children's learning but in a different way," he said. "Moms provide the link to the intimate or the domestic. Dads provide a link to the outside world."

While I'm hesitant to embrace any generalization, especially when it comes to parenting styles, it's worth noting that VanDam's study jibes with other research about the way we communicate with our babies. And he certainly did his homework: To reach his conclusion, he analyzed 2,000 days worth of data from 120 families, focusing specifically on 11 families with kids around 2 1/2 years old. In those cases, he attached a voice-recognition device onto the toddler's shirt and recorded a whopping 13.5 hours of child-parent interactions. (Side note: Can you imagine someone recording a half day of you talking with your baby?!)

What I like about this study is that, unlike other ones, there's no guidance or call to action. We're not doing anything wrong. In fact, as VanDam's study suggests, when it comes to chatting up our babies, there's room for all sorts of styles. But I'm curious: Do you think these findings will change the way you or your partner talk to your baby? Share it in the comments section below.

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Bonnie Gibbs Vengrow is a New York City-based writer and editor who traded in her Blackberry and Metro card for playdates and PB&J sandwiches—and the once-in-a-lifetime chance to watch her feisty, funny son grow up. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.

As parents, we all want our babies to learn how to speak as soon as possible. Here are six ways to encourage language development.

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1 Comment

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