University of Oulu

Maternal sensitive responsiveness, characteristics and relations to child early communicative and linguistic development

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Author: Paavola, Leila1,2
Organizations: 1University of Oulu, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Finnish, Information Studies and Logopedics
2University of Oulu, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Paediatrics
Format: ebook
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.1 MB)
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Language: English
Published: 2006
Publish Date: 2006-10-03
Thesis type: Doctoral Dissertation
Defence Note: Academic dissertation to be presented, with the assent of the Faculty of Humanities of the University of Oulu, for public defence in Keckmaninsali (Auditorium HU106), Linnanmaa, on October 13th, 2006, at 12 noon
Reviewer: Professor Marja-Leena Laakso
Professor Kaisa Launonen


The present longitudinal follow-up study had two main goals. Firstly, this study aimed to describe aspects of maternal interactive/communicative behaviour that could be considered constitutive in sensitive responsiveness. Secondly and most importantly, it aimed to find predictive relations between characteristics of mother-infant interaction around the onset of infant intentional communication and subsequent child communicative and linguistic development.

The participants were 27 Finnish-speaking mothers and their healthy first-born infants. Analyses of the amount and types of maternal and infant communicative acts as well as maternal responses to infant signals were carried out from videotaped free-play samples at the infants’ age of 10 months. In addition, the CARE-Index was used to rate maternal sensitivity and infant co-operativity. At 12 months, children’s communicative and linguistic skills were assessed by using the MacArthur Communicative Development Inventories and the Communication and Symbolic Behaviour Scales. At 30 months, the Reynell Developmental Language Scales III was used to assess comprehensive and expressive language.

The results suggest that maternal activity in eliciting interaction and conversational interchanges is characteristic of sensitive responsiveness around the onset of infant intentionality. However, very distinctive aspects of verbal behaviour that might be constitutive in sensitive responsiveness were not found — probably as a result of considerable individual variation in all aspects of maternal as well as infant interactive/communicative behaviour that were analysed. As predictors of communicative and linguistic skills at 12 months, both maternal and infant characteristics made a significant contribution. In general, the predictive relations found were quite specific. In turn, except for the predictive validity of maternal sensitivity for comprehensive language at 30 months, later language outcomes were predicted only by children’s communicative and linguistic skills at 12 months, suggesting that over time, language development becomes increasingly child-driven. Individual differences in early communicative capacities may also to some extent mask the language-facilitating effects of parenting. On the other hand, some potentially facilitating effects of parental behaviour may be elicited by the infant’s well-advanced communicative skills. The importance to acknowledge transactional processes in parent-child interaction is highlighted — both in future research and clinical applications.

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Series: Acta Universitatis Ouluensis. B, Humaniora
ISSN-E: 1796-2218
ISBN: 951-42-8203-5
ISBN Print: 951-42-8202-7
Issue: 73
Copyright information: © University of Oulu, 2006. This publication is copyrighted. You may download, display and print it for your own personal use. Commercial use is prohibited.