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Child Care Health Dev. 2005 Nov;31(6):727-35.

Maternal responsiveness and infant intentional communication: implications for the early communicative and linguistic development.

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Department of Finnish, Information Studies and Logopedics, University of Oulu, Finland.



Maternal responsiveness has been found to have an important role in early language acquisition. From early on, children can also be regarded as active participants in interaction who demonstrate increasing competence in conveying messages to their interactive partners. Hence, in order to demonstrate consistent effects of maternal responses, it is important to take into account individual differences among children. In the present study, the relation between the frequencies of maternal responses and infant intentional communicative acts as well as their predictive validity to subsequent early communicative and linguistic skills was examined.


The participants were 27 Finnish-speaking mothers and their healthy firstborn infants. Maternal and infant interactive behaviour was analysed from 20-min samples of free play collected during home visits at the infants' age of 10 months. At 12 months the children were assessed for their communicative and linguistic skills by using the Finnish version of the MacArthur Communicative Development Inventories and the Communication and Symbolic Behaviour Scales.


The frequencies of maternal responses and infant intentional communicative acts were not intercorrelated. As for subsequent communicative and linguistic skills, the results of regression analyses indicated that both maternal responsiveness and infant intentional communication predict early comprehensive skills, whereas expressive skills--the use of both verbal and gestural communicative means--are predicted only by infant intentional communication.


The results of the present study suggest that maternal responsiveness during the prelinguistic stage is not necessarily dependent on children's communicative competence. As predictors of early communicative and linguistic skills, both maternal responsiveness and infant intentional communication make a distinctive contribution.

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