By the University of York
Psychologists at the University of York have revealed new evidence showing how specific language used by parents to talk to their babies can help their child to understand the thoughts of others when they get older.
Studying the effects of maternal mind-mindedness (the ability to ‘tune in’ to their young child’s thoughts and feelings), lead author Dr Elizabeth Kirk observed 40 mothers and their babies when they were 10, 12, 16, and 20 months old.
Keeping a record of parental language while a mother and her child played for 10 minutes, psychologists logged every time the mother made ‘mind related comments’ — inferences about their child’s thought processes through their behaviour (for example, if an infant had difficulty with opening a door on a toy car, they could be labelled as ‘frustrated’).
Revisiting 15 mother-child pairs when children reached 5 — 6 years old, the child’s Theory of Mind (ToM) or socio-cognitive ability was assessed. Using the ‘strange stories’ method, the level at which the child was able relate to others and understand another person’s thoughts was recorded.
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