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The Way You Talk to Your Baby Could Impact Her Social Skills

Mom talking to baby
When it comes to baby talk, there are some ways to communicate with your little one that are better than others. New research from the University of York shows that how moms talk to their babies can actually influence their kids' understanding of others' emotions when they grow up.

The study, published in the British Journal of Developmental Psychology, examined 40 mother/baby pairs at four different points—when the babies were 10, 12, 16 and 20 months old. During each visit, psychologists recorded maternal language while mom and baby played for a total of 10 minutes. The psychologists noted whenever a mother made a comment about her child's thought processes, which researchers called "mind-mindedness." For example, verbally acknowledging when your baby may be feeling frustrated.

The mom/baby pairs were revisited, when the kids were 5 or 6 years old, to have the kids' socio-cognitive ability assessed to decipher how well children understood another person's thoughts.

Researchers found that children were able to relate better to others at the age of 5 if their mothers had frequently used mind-mindedness comments or phrases.

"These findings show 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," said lead author Elizabeth Kirk, M.D. in a press release. "This has important consequences for the child's social development, equipping children to understand what other people might be thinking or feeling."

Caitlin St John is an Editorial Assistant for Parents.com who splits her time between New York City and her hometown on Long Island. Follow her on Twitter: @CAITYstjohn

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Image: Mom talking to baby via Shutterstock