New evidence by medical researchers shows how a particular language used by parents to communicate with the child at their early age can help the kid understand people’s thoughts when they are older.
Lead author Dr Elizabeth Kirk observed 40 mothers and their babies when they were 10, 12, 16, and 20 months old.
Psychologists logged every time the mother made inferences about their child’s thought processes through their behavior.
Revisiting 15 mother-child pairs when children reached 5 – 6 years old, the child’s Theory of Mind (ToM) was assessed using strange stories method.
The strange stories method involves reading a fictional vignette to the child which poses one of 12 social scenarios.
A strong, positive correlation between mind-related comments at 10, 12 and 20 months old along with a child’s score on the strange stories task were shown in the results.
Therefore, children’s ability to understand the thoughts of other people when they were aged 5 was related to how mind-minded their mothers were when they were babies.
Dr Kirk, Lecturer in York’s Department of Psychology, said that these findings showed how a mother’s ability to tune-in to her baby’s thoughts and feelings early on helps her child to learn to empathise with the mental lives of other people.
This story is published in British Journal of Developmental Psychology.