Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


40th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2014

Event Details

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B. F. Skinner Lecture Series Paper Session #328
CE Offered: PSY/BACB

From Action to Interaction to Learning: How Parental Responsiveness Promotes Children's Language Development

Monday, May 26, 2014
9:00 AM–9:50 AM
W375e (McCormick Place Convention Center)
Area: VRB; Domain: Basic Research
Instruction Level: Intermediate
CE Instructor: Anna I. Petursdottir, Ph.D.
Chair: Anna I. Petursdottir (Texas Christian University)
Catherine S. Tamis-LeMonda is a professor of developmental psychology at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, and director of the Center for Research on Culture, Development, and Education. Her research examines infants’ developing language, play, cognition, motor skills, and social understanding across the first four years of life, with a focus on reciprocal associations among emerging skills. Of special interest are the social and cultural contexts of early skill development, especially the ways in which mothers’ and fathers’ interactions with children shape children’s developmental trajectories in different populations within the United States and internationally. She uses multiple methods in her research (naturalistic, observational, experimental, surveys, qualitative interviews, and direct child assessments), and is an expert on the microanalysis of real-time behavioral interactions between infants and parents. This research highlights how infants’ engagements with the world function to elicit “contingently responsive” input from parents, which in turn facilitates language learning and development. Her research has been funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Development, National Institute of Mental Health, the National Science Foundation, Administration for Children and Families, the Ford Foundation, and the Robinhood Foundation. Dr. Tamis-LeMonda has more than 100 publications in peer-reviewed journals and books, and has co-edited the volumes Child Psychology: A Handbook of Contemporary Issues, Handbook of Father Involvement: Multidisciplinary Perspectives, and The Development of Social Cognition and Communication.

Parent-infant interaction is the primary context in which infants learn culturally valued skills. In the domain of language development, parental verbal responsiveness has consistently been found to promote infants' learning of new words. Why might this be? Here, the speaker will highlight several features of responsiveness that explain these parent-child associations: (1) Responsive behaviors are temporally connected (contiguous) and dependent upon (contingent) infant actions (i.e., exploratory or communicative behaviors), and thereby facilitate infants' mapping of words to their referents; (2) Parents are more likely to use lexically rich language in response to infant actions than in the presence of infant off-task behaviors; (3) Responsive behaviors are multi-modal in their structures, thereby provide infants with physical cues (e.g., gestures) to the words that are spoken. These principles have been demonstrated in several longitudinal studies of infant-parent interactions in families from diverse socio-cultural backgrounds (e.g. European-American, African-American, and Dominican and Mexican immigrants). Frame-by-frame coding is applied to video-recorded interactions to examine how mothers respond ("response type") to specific infant behaviors ("infant-given behavior"), and relate "infant-to-mother behavioral sequences" to children's current and later language skills. The developmental significance of parental responsiveness is observed across cultural communities and reflects universal processes of early language learning.

Target Audience:

Behavior analysis researchers, graduate students, and practitioners.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of this event, participants should be able to (1) Understand why the first years of life (infancy) are foundational to later learning and school readiness, and how parents can promote early language development; (2) Understand the value of "microgenetic" coding systems for documenting the real-time process of learning seen in infant-parent interactions; and (3) Discuss how and why early learning processes generalize across cultural communities that otherwise might differ along several meaningful dimensions (e.g., parental education, income, beliefs, and practices).
Keyword(s): infants, language development, parental responsiveness



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