Parents can help toddlers’ language skills by showing them a variety of examples of different actions, according to new research from the University of Liverpool.
Previous research has shown that verbs pose particular difficulties to toddlers as they refer to actions rather than objects, and actions are often different each time a child sees them.
To find out more about this area of child language, University psychologists asked a group of toddlers to watch one of two short videos.
They then examined whether watching a cartoon star repeat the same action, compared to a character performing three different actions, affected the children’s understanding of verbs.
Developmental psychologist, Dr Katherine Twomey, said: “Knowledge of how children start to learn language is important to our understanding of how they progress throughout preschool and school years.
“This is the first study to indicate that showing toddlers similar but, importantly, not identical actions actually helped them understand what a verb refers to, instead of confusing them as you might expect.”
Dr Jessica Horst from the University of Sussex who collaborated on the research added: “It is a crucial first step in understanding how what children see affects how they learn verbs and action categories, and provides the groundwork for future studies to examine in more detail exactly what kinds of variability affect how children learn words.”
Whether they march in unison, row in the same boat or dance to the same song, people who move in time with one another are more likely to bond and work together afterward.
It’s a principle established by previous studies, but now researchers at McMaster have shown that moving in time with others even affects the social behaviour of babies who have barely learned to walk.
“Moving in sync with others is an important part of musical activities,” says Laura Cirelli, lead author of a paper now posted online and scheduled to appear in an upcoming issue of the journal Developmental Science. “These effects show that movement is a fundamental part of music that affects social behavior from a very young age.”
Cirelli and her colleagues in the Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour showed that 14-month-old babies were much more likely to help another person after the experience of bouncing up and down in time to music with that person.
Cirelli and fellow doctoral student Kate Einarson worked under the supervision of Professor Laurel Trainor, a specialist in child development research.
They tested 68 babies in all, to see if bouncing to music with another person makes a baby more likely to assist that person by handing back “accidentally” dropped objects.
Working in pairs, one researcher held a baby in a forward-facing carrier and stood facing the second researcher. When the music started to play, both researchers would gently bounce up and down, one bouncing the baby with them. Some babies were bounced in sync with the researcher across from them, and others were bounced at a different tempo.
When the song was over, the researcher who had been facing the baby then performed several simple tasks, including drawing a picture with a marker. While drawing the picture, she would pretend to drop the marker to see whether the infant would pick it up and hand it back to her – a classic test of altruism in babies.
The babies who had been bounced in time with the researcher were much more likely to toddle over, pick up the object and pass it back to the researcher, compared to infants who had been bounced at a different tempo than the experimenter.
While babies who had been bounced out of sync with the researcher only picked up and handed back 30 per cent of the dropped objects, in-sync babies came to the researcher’s aid 50 per cent of the time. The in-sync babies also responded more quickly.
The findings suggest that when we sing, clap, bounce or dance in time to music with our babies, these shared experiences of synchronous movement help form social bonds between us and our babies.
It’s a significant finding, Cirelli believes, because it shows that moving together to music with others encourages the development of altruistic helping behaviour among those in a social group. It suggests that music is an important part of day care and kindergarten curriculums because it helps to build a co-operative social climate.
Cirelli is now researching whether the experience of synchronous movement with one person leads babies to extend their increased helpfulness to other people or whether infants reserve their altruistic behaviour for their dancing partners.
Experts believe language uses both a mental dictionary and a mental grammar. The mental ‘dictionary’ stores sounds, words and common phrases, while mental ‘grammar’ involves the real-time composition of longer words and sentences. For example, making a longer word ‘walked’ from a smaller one ‘walk’.
However, most research into understanding how these processes work has been carried out with adults.
“Most researchers agree that the way we use language in our minds involves both storing and real-time composition,” said lead researcher Dr Cristina Dye, a specialist in child language development at Newcastle University. “But a lot of the specifics about how this happens are unclear, such as identifying exactly which parts of language are stored and which are composed.
“Most research on this topic has concentrated on adults and we wanted to see if studying children could help us learn more about these processes.”
A test based around 29 irregular verbs and 29 regular verbs was presented to the young participants. Only verbs which would be known by eight-year-olds were used.
They were presented with two sentences. One featured the verb in the context of the sentence, with the second sentence containing a blank to allow the children to produce the past-tense form. For example: Every day I walk to school. Just like every day, yesterday I ____ to school.
The children were asked to produce the missing word as quickly and as accurately as possible and their response times were recorded. The results were then analysed to discover which words were stored or created in real-time.
Results showed girls were more likely to memorise words and phrases – use their mental dictionary - while boys used mental grammar - i.e assembled these from smaller parts - more often.
The findings could have implications in the way youngsters are taught in the classroom, believes Dr Dye, who is based in the Centre for Research in Linguistics and Language Sciences.
She said: “What we found as we carried out the study was that girls were far more likely to remember forms like ‘walked’ while boys relied much more on their mental grammar to compose ‘walked’ from ‘walk’ and ‘ed’. This fits in with previous research which has identified differences between the sexes when it comes to memorising facts and events, where girls also seem to have an advantage compared to boys.
“One interesting aside to this is that as girls often outperform boys at school, it could be that the curriculum is put together in a way which benefits the way girls learn. It may be worth further investigation to see if this is the case and if so, is there a way lessons could be changed so boys can get the most out of them too.”
(Image: Getty Images)
New research has shown that being exposed to bullying during childhood will lead to an increased risk of psychotic experiences in adulthood, regardless of whether they are victims or perpetrators.
The study, published today in Psychological Medicine, assessed a cohort of UK children (ALSPAC) from birth to fully understand the extent of bullying on psychosis in later life – with some groups showing to be almost five times more likely to suffer from episodes at the age of 18.
The analysis, led by researchers from the University of Warwick, in association with colleagues at the University of Bristol, shows that victims, perpetrators and those who are both bullies and victims (bully-victims), are at an increased risk of developing psychotic experiences.
Even when controlling for external factors such as family factors or pre-existing behaviour problems, the study found that not only those children who were bullied over a number of years (chronic victims), but also the bullies themselves in primary school were up to four and a half times more likely to have suffered from psychotic experiences by the age of 18. Equally concerning is that those children who only experienced bullying for brief periods (e.g. at 8 or 10 years of age) were at increased risk for psychotic experiences.
The term ‘psychotic experiences’ covers a range of experiences, from hearing voices and seeing things that are not there to paranoia. These experiences, if persistent, are highly distressing and disruptive to everyday life. They are diagnosed by GPs or psychiatrists as “psychotic disorders” such as schizophrenia. Exact diagnosis is difficult and requires careful assessment as in this study.
Professor Dieter Wolke of the University of Warwick explained, “We want to eradicate the myth that bullying at a young age could be viewed as a harmless rite of passage that everyone goes through – it casts a long shadow over a person’s life and can have serious consequences for mental health”
“These numbers show exactly how much childhood bullying can impact on psychosis in adult life. It strengthens on the evidence base that reducing bullying in childhood could substantially reduce mental health problems. The benefit to society would be huge, but of course, the greatest benefit would be to the individual.”
When controlling for external factors such as family factors or pre-existing behaviour problems, the study found that not only those children who were bullied over a number of years (chronic victims), but also the bullies themselves in primary school were up to four and a half times more likely to have suffered from psychotic experiences by the age of 18. Equally concerning is that those children who only experienced bullying for brief periods (e.g. at 8 or 10 years of age) were at increased risk for psychotic experiences.
Wolke’s team have previously looked at the impact of bullying on psychotic symptoms in 12 year olds, and there have been a range of short term studies that confirm the relation between being a victim of bullying and psychotic symptoms. This study, however, is the first to report the long term impact of being involved in bullying during childhood - whether victim, bully or bully-victim – on psychotic experiences in late adolescence or adulthood.
Professor Wolke added, “The results show that interventions against bullying should start early, in primary school, to prevent long term serious effects on children’s mental health. This clearly isn’t something that can wait until secondary school to be resolved; the damage may already have been done.”
So I have been doing some research lately and I have come across this interesting organisation called “Big Brothers Big Sisters”. When I visited their website, I was completely immersed and curious of such an organisation.
From the website:
Each time Big Brothers Big Sisters pairs a child with a role model, we start something incredible: a one-to-one relationship built on trust and friendship that can blossom into a future of unlimited potential. And thanks to the first-ever nationwide impact study of a mentoring organization, we have the facts to prove it.
As the nation’s largest non-profit one-to-one youth mentoring organization, it is our mission to provide children facing adversity with strong and enduring professionally supported one-to-one relationships that change their lives for the better—forever.
Researchers found that after 18 months of spending time with their Bigs, the Little Brothers and Little Sisters, compared to those children not in our program, were:
- 46% less likely to begin using illegal drugs
- 27% less likely to begin using alcohol
- 52% less likely to skip school
- 37% less likely to skip a class
- 33% less likely to hit someone
I personally think this is a very neat plan, but especially in need of help as the children most in need for volunteers (role-models and such) are men of different racial and ethnic backgrounds. Only 3 out of 10 boys get to have a Big Brother to mentor them, to help mold the children of our future and to help those children find themselves.
So if you’re a guy or a gal interested in volunteering, donating, or in any way participating in advancing the development of children today, I think this is a very good place to start out.
Here’s a handy video for you: X
And the website link here: X
Has anybody done this before? If so, share your experience!
Judith Herman (via disabledbyculture)