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Child Dev. 2001 May-Jun;72(3):748-67.

Maternal responsiveness and children's achievement of language milestones.

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Department of Applied Psychology, New York University, NY 10003, USA.


This prospective longitudinal study examined the contribution of dimensions of maternal responsiveness (descriptions, play, imitations) to the timing of five milestones in children's (N = 40) early expressive language: first imitations, first words, 50 words in expressive language, combinatorial speech, and the use of language to talk about the past. Events-History Analysis, a statistical technique that estimates the extent to which predictors influence the timing of events, was used. At 9 and 13 months, maternal responsiveness and children's activities (e.g., vocalizations, play) were coded from videotaped interactions of mother-child free play; information about children's language acquisition was obtained through biweekly interviews with mothers from 9 through 21 months. Maternal responsiveness at both ages predicted the timing of children's achieving language milestones over and above children's observed behaviors. Responsiveness at 13 months was a stronger predictor of the timing of language milestones than was responsiveness at 9 months, and certain dimensions of responsiveness were more predictive than others. The multidimensional nature of maternal responsiveness and specificity in mother-child language relations are discussed.

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