New research has found that the pitch of a baby's cry at just 4 months old may be linked to the pitch of their speech when they're 5 years old.

By Maressa Brown
July 17, 2018

Even before your child is born, you may be looking for clues into how they'll act as babies, toddlers, big kids, even adults. Now, science has offered some new intel on voice development. A study published last week in the journal Biology Letters concluded that the pitch of 4-month-olds' cries may be a "significant and substantial" predictor of the pitch of their speech at age 5.

For the study, a team of five bioacoustic researchers recorded the voices of 15 French children—six girls and nine boys—from 4 to 5 years old. For each child, they had accompanying, recorded "mild discomfort cries" from when they were anywhere from 2 to 5 months old. 

They reiterated findings from previous research that there are no sex differences in the pitch of babies' or prepubescent children's cries. That's only true of adult human voices. 

But what they did find was that the pitch of their voices at 2 to 5 months predicted the pitch of their voices at 5 years old. That said, the researchers point out that it was a small study of only French children, so further, broader study will be needed to make any sweeping conclusions.

The New York Times spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University. Hodges was not involved in the study but whose research has illustrated how voice pitch affects our impressions of a person’s physical and social dominance, attractiveness and trust. 

Her takeaway of the new findings: "Individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development.”