- Chapter 9 Language and Communication
Emotion and Children’s Speech Production
As with any area of children’s development, language and communication abilities can be compromised early on. One aspect of language development that can suffer is children’s speech production, resulting, for example, in stuttering. Since communication, social and emotional development are all closely linked, Karrass and colleagues (Karrass, Walden, Conture, Graham, Arnold, et al., 2006) sought to examine some of the emotional correlates of stuttering in children. Study participants included 65 preschool children who stuttered and a control group of 65 preschool children who did not stutter. Parents completed a questionnaire measuring temperament, emotional reactivity and emotion regulation. Findings showed that when compared to fluent-speaking children in the control group, children who stuttered displayed a range of emotion reactions: they were more reactive, less able to regulate their emotions; and less able to regulate their attention. Children who displayed reactivity were more likely to respond to people and situations in a ‘highly-strung’ manner.
The authors interpreted the findings to indicate that problems with emotion regulation and reactivity may contribute to the language difficulties of children who stutter. It is not surprising to imagine that if a child feels anxious in a situation, and has difficulty controlling his or her arousal, the ability to produce words will be compromised, especially if speech production is already difficult or stressful for the child. It is important to bear in mind that this study employed a correlational design. However, correlational research designs do not allow us to draw firm conclusions about causality. Therefore, the findings of the Karrass et al. (2006) study may just as readily indicate that children with language problems develop emotional difficulties due to embarrassment or stress in response to stuttering. It is likely that speech and emotion difficulties are mutually influential, with exacerbations in either causing a corresponding problem in the other.
Regardless of which conclusion is more likely, the study has important implications for children with speech production difficulties. This study also demonstrates the close link between language and emotional development; disruption in one area can have wide-reaching effects. The findings are not simply limited to a language-emotion connection. It is likely that emotion affects social development as well. Research does indeed show that children who are less able to understand and control their emotions have more difficulties interacting with peers. For example, in a recent study, toddlers with more developed language skills were better able to manage frustration and were less likely to express anger at age 3–4 years than toddlers with less developed language skills (Roben et al., 2013). Language skills may help children to verbalize their needs, rather than use emotions to demonstrate what they want.
Question: In 3 full sentences, answer the following question.
What connections does the writer make about possible causations and correlations between speech, language, emotional and social development?
- Chapter 10 Emotional Development
Attachment Security and Temperament: The role of genetics and environment
Although the basic distinction in the nature–nurture debate is between the varied roles of genetics and environment in understanding development and behavior, we can make a further distinction between different forms of environmental influences. Shared environment factors can be distinguished from non-shared environmental factors. Environmental influences that are shared by family members include everything from neighborhoods, family socioeconomic status and family religion; they result in behavioral similarities between family members. In contrast, non-shared environmental influences are specific to an individual and include peers, birth order, differential parental treatment and any non-normative life events like accidents or deaths (Saudino, 2005).
A recent behavior genetics study examined the influence of these kinds of environmental influences and genetic influences on infant attachment and temperament (Bokhorst, Bakermans-Kranenburg, Fearon, Van IJzendoorn, Fonagy, & Schuengel, 2003). The study involved 157 pairs of monozygotic and dizygotic twins from the Netherlands and London. Infants were placed in the strange situation to measure mother–infant attachment and mothers completed a questionnaire on the child’s temperament. Cross tabulations of attachment classifications within the pairs of twins revealed that genetic contributions were relatively small. For example, for monozygotic twins, the concordance for secure attachment was 42%, while for dizygotic twins, the concordance was 41%. This result was striking in that both types of twin showed comparable rates of genetic similarity, even though monozygotic twins have identical genotypes (compared to the 50% genetic similarity between dizygotic twins). After completing some complex modelling that accounted for genetics, shared and non-shared factors, the authors found that shared and non-shared environments were strong predictors of secure versus insecure attachment; the role of genetics was negligible. For temperament, the findings were slightly different. The difference in concordance between monozygotic and dizygotic twins was greater, and points to more of a genetic component. Results of statistical modelling revealed that 77% of temperamental differences were explained by genes, while the remaining 23% were explained by non-shared environmental factors.
Together, these findings indicate a strong role for environmental factors in attachment security; and in particular, non-shared environments. Parenting has been considered an important influence in whether children display secure attachments, and these findings support this. It is likely that parenting can be either a shared or a non-shared influence, as although parents may have an underlying parenting philosophy, they often parent differently with different children, resulting in non-shared influence as well. In contrast, the role of genetics is stronger in the development of temperament. It seems that infants are born with at least part of their tendency to react to and regulate emotion, and their individual experiences in the world explain the rest.
In 3 full sentences each, answer the following questions.
- What was the main difference the researchers found between attachment and temperament? Explain.
- What implications do the findings have for new parents?
III. Chapter 11 Social Development
Siblings as Socialization
Psychologists and the general public have long been fascinated with the notion that birth order affects personality. First-borns are traditionally thought to be the most responsible and high-achieving children in families, while younger children are considered more sociable and risk taking. While some observations have seemed to confirm these stereotypes, such that first-borns are overrepresented in politics and science (Hudson, 1990), research is not always consistent and most often studies merely note correlations. Many studies find differences on certain personality traits, such as conscientiousness (with elder children scoring higher), but birth order differences in other personality dimensions such as extraversion are contentious. It is thought that first-borns tend to be bigger and stronger than their younger siblings, which results in first-borns becoming more assertive, but also more eager to please adults to ensure they receive first dibs on parental resources. In contrast, younger siblings are likely to become agreeable and sociable to prevent any threatening confrontations with the eldest child in the family (Sulloway, 2001). However, research exploring these ideas has thus far been mixed.
A recent study attempted to get around the problems of earlier studies, which have traditionally used between-family designs, examining siblings of different birth orders in different families. This study, conducted with undergraduate and graduate students from a university in London, examined siblings born within the same family, thus comparing a first born with his or her younger sibling, rather than a younger sibling from another family (Beck, Burnet, & Vosper, 2006). The researchers did indeed find that birth-order affects social development. First-borns rated themselves as more dominant than younger siblings, while later-borns were rated as more sociable. It seems that how a child’s parent and siblings relate to him or her early on has a lasting effect on personality and socialization. However, it is worth noting that such studies generally ask about personality in the context of the family, and it possible that these birth-order tendencies do not extend to other situations. Thus, later-born children may be quite sociable in comparison to their older sibling and within their family, yet have an average social life at work.
Question: “It seems that how a child’s parent and siblings relate to him or her early on has a lasting effect on personality and socialization.” Cite 2 or 3 examples of how parents and siblings might shape the personality and socialization preferences of a child.
- Chapter 12 Moral Development
Friendship Groups for At-risk Children
Many interventions exist to teach children who have difficulties interacting with others to learn more effective ways of relating. A group of researchers examined how the friendship group component of a multi-component preventive intervention programme called Fast Track impacted children’s social outcomes (Lavallee. Bierman, Nix, and the Conduct Problems Prevention Research Group, 2005). The study was primarily interested in seeing whether association with other aggressive children in the friendship groups led to more aggression in children. The Fast Track programme was designed to place at-risk children in a social skills training environment that would hopefully prevent children’s further aggressive and disruptive behaviour. The friendship group component of this program involved 5–6 children meeting once a week to learn new social cognitions, prosocial behaviour and how to reduce aggression. The friendship groups were run by trained adults. A total of 266 children aged 6–7 years were placed in a friendship group (56% belonged to a minority group, 29% were female). The authors reported a number of interesting findings:
- Children placed in the friendship groups were significantly more likely than children in control groups to show improvements in moral behaviour.
- Children’s pre-intervention positive and negative behaviour was related to their post-intervention behaviour such that children who started off aggressive were more likely to remain aggressive.
- Children who received encouragement from other members of the group for ‘naughty’ behaviour were less likely to show improvements in behaviour.
- Simply being in the presence of other disruptive or well-behaved children did not significantly impact children’s post-intervention behaviour.
- The presence of girls in the friendship groups led to significantly better behaviour in all member
- Question: Several explanations are given for the various results from this study of a friendship group. Identify (at least one each) and explain the results that are based on –
- social learning theory
- operant conditioning (Skinner’s behavioural theory)
- nativist theory (born that way)