Psychological Research

Psychological research: winter babies crawl earlier than summer babies

Psychological research paper: are there differences in crawling age between winter and summer babies? baby-brain.co.uk. Psychological perspective, resource and blog on motherhood

Crawling baby

Psychological research paper: I saw this paper here, about crawling, thought it looked interesting:

Babies Born in the Winter Start Crawling Earlier Than Those Born in the Summer

Study shows a seasonal effect on the pace of motor development in babies

 

Babies born between December and May (“winter” babies) were found to start to crawl earlier compared to those born between June and November (“summer” babies – although November is bit a bit winter-ish if you ask me, but hey-ho). The study involved motor observations at home when babies were 7 months old, and following the babies up when they started crawling. Parents were also asked to record the stages in their babies’ development.

The average age at which the babies started crawling was 31 weeks. But while the babies born in the winter (who started to crawl in the summer) started to crawl at an average 30 weeks, those born in the summer (who started to crawl in the winter) began crawling at an average of 35 weeks, with no differences noted between the boys or the girls or in the initial style of crawling (belly crawling or using hands and knees).

They also used a measure that assessed 4 different positions: Prone (on the stomach), supine (on the back), sitting, and standing – the overall scores the babies got on this assessment was higher for winter babies, but, there were no significant differences in scores between the winter and summer babies on the scores for the supine position, sitting, or standing.

So what do the researchers conclude?

According to the researchers, the findings strengthen the assumption that there is a window of opportunity for starting to crawl and stress the effect of the season on the start of crawling.

The current study took place in Israel. They talk about the seasonal effect because other studies where there is quite a difference between seasons have found similiar results, e.g. in Denver, Colorado and Osaka, Japan. But, but a study that took place in Alberta, Canada, didn’t find any seasonal effect. Despite winters being “long and cold” there, the researchers write that the environment in the house is very similar all year round because of winter heating.

They write:

“Although the winter in Israel is comparatively mild…. it turns out that it nonetheless influences the motor development of babies because of the differences between summer and winter in Israel,”

⇒ So why does season and seasonal effects seem to be relevant to when babies start to crawl?

The study notes that:

“The season influences the babies’ experiences in a number of ways, including

  • layers of clothing that are worn

  • the opportunities babies are given to spend on the floor on their stomachs, and,

  • the hours of activity and daylight

Awareness of the seasonal effect is important so that parents will give their babies proper movement and development opportunities in the winter as well,” 

Ooooh I see, so it’s not necessarily anything inherent about winter vs summer children, but about environmental factors and what is going on in the baby’s home and environment when they are developing and reaching the age that they might start to develop crawling skills.

Those born in winter will approach crawling ready age in spring/summer where there might be more opportunities to go out, have more hours of day light in which in play, less restrictive or thick clothing on so that they can practice movement more freely, etc.

psychological research: Do babies understand speech?

Do babies understand speech? What does the psychological research say - yes! Infant verbal understanding

Do babies understand speech?

I saw this interesting research paper today (1) about whether babies as young as 6 months understand that speech is used to communicate information (rather than random, interesting sounds that come out of our mouths).

 

→ Babies at 6 months appear to understand that speech transfers information between people

Some people might think – but of course! Others might think, wow, that’s early to understand such a thing.

 

 

 

The study also mentioned that:
  • Previous research (2, 3) has shown that 12 month old children can understand that speech transfers information, even when the speech is unknown or a new experience for them.
  • By 6 months, babies prefer speech over other sounds (4)
  • They also associate speech as coming from people, rather than other animals, for example (5)

 

What the experiment did:

The researchers looked at:

  • Whether 6 month olds could recognise that speech can communicate something about an object.
  • In the experiment the baby watched an actor reach for one of two different objects. There was also a second person present. Next, the actor could no longer reach the objects, but the second person could
    • so they either “spoke” to the person (they actually spoke a nonsense word, not a real conversation)
    • or made a non-speech communication (a cough).
  • The second person would then pick up one of the objects (there was a “target” object and a “non-preferred” object)
  • The results showed that babies looked at the actor for longer when they reached for the non-preferred object than the target object when they made the nonsense word, but not when when they coughed.

The study concludes that at 6 months, even though babies have a very small receptive vocabulary, infants have some abstract understanding of the communicative function of speech. This understanding may help with their development of language and knowledge.

Conclusion
Six-month olds infer that a vocalization that takes the
form of speech, even without any previously established
meaning, can communicate information about an object…….

 

…… even before knowing many words, infants can already use their understanding of the abstract role of speech in communication to evaluate the outcome of communicative interactions. (pg7)

The main points:
  • babies understand that speech is used to communicate and has a communicative function before they build their vocabularies and start to speak.
  • understanding that speech is used to communicate may happen before the child develops language, and this understanding may also provide a mechanism for early language acquisition:
  •  Babies start to learn quite early on that speech transfers information and may use this abstract understanding to learn about the meaning of individual words (6)

 

interesting!

 

References:
  1. Vouloumanos, A., Martin, A., & Onishi, K. H. (2014). Do 6-month-olds understand that speech can communicate? Developmental Science, pp 1–8
  2. Martin, A., Onishi, K.H., & Vouloumanos, A. (2012). Understanding the abstract role of speech in communication at 12 months. Cognition, 123 (1), 50 – 60. 
  3. Vouloumanos, A., Onishi, K .H., & Pogue, A. (2012). Twelve-month-old infants recognize that speech can communicate unobservable intentions. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America , 109 (32),12933 – 12937.
  4. Vouloumanos, A., & Werker, J.F. (2004). Tuned to the signal:the privileged status of speech for young infants. Develop-mental Science.  7 (3), 270-276
  5. Vouloumanos, A., Druhen, M. J., Hauser, M.D., & Huizink, A.T. (2009). Five-month-old infants’ identification of thesources of vocalizations.  Proceedings of the National Acad-emy of Sciences of the United States of America,106 (44),18867-18872.
  6. Waxman, S.R., & Leddon, E.M. (2002). Early word learning and conceptual development: everything had a name, and each name gave birth to a new thought. In U. Goswami(Ed.),The Wiley-Blackwell handbook of childhood cognitivedevelopment (pp. 102-126). Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell
For further references in relation to infant cognition and communication see this page here from the infant cognition and communication lab

I’m an infant scientist!

look at my fancy hat

look at my fancy hat

Not me – the Little Lovely (LL). He also beat me to making a contribution to psychology and science by about 18 years, and that’s only if A-level psychology counts, which in terms of making any significant contribution to science, my A-level psychology certainly did not. What am I talking about? Well I signed baby up to take part in a baby-lab research project, at Birkbeck BabyLab and Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development. And all we got was this T-shirt! (picture to come, once I can get LL to pose in it for me, t-shirt is currently in the wash after getting dribble and other stuff on it). Not really, we got to contribute to a study that will tell us more about infant brain development and behaviour, and it was a fun afternoon out for us. The place was very baby friendly, and set up for us, of course.
So what did we do? LL had to watch a video involving a number of short clips of a person doing a certain activity on the screen, whilst wearing some interesting head gear. I won’t go into the specifics of it, just in case anyone is interested in participating, but the study was investigating brain activation underlying infants’ understanding of other people’s beliefs. Previous research had found that babies as young as 6 months were able to track another person’s beliefs and make predictions about the person’s actions based on those beliefs.
The study LL took part in was looking at which parts of the brain were responsible for understanding others’ beliefs, hence the fancy headgear which I think is supposed to detect which areas of the brain are activated and “light up”, when looking at the video clips. LL was not harmed in any way, or in any discomfort! And he had two very nice researchers paying him a lot of attention, plus I got a cup of tea, which is always a nice bonus, and to re-engage my brain in terms of thinking about psychological research.

 

⇒ ♥ ♥  ♥ Infant Scientists Wanted! ♥ ♥  ♥ ⇐

 

 

 

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