Psychology Dictionary of Arguments

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Upton I 60
Parent-Child-Relationship/Developmental psychology/Upton: early relationships also have a role to play in the development of cognitive functioning and, in particular, the acquisition of language. Important Important features of eraly relationships:
Meshing: This describes the smoothly integrated interactions that are seen when two people get on well together, with each person’s contribution to the interaction fitting with that of the other. In the 1970s, observations of mother–child interactions during infant feeding (breast or bottle) demonstrated that both the baby’s and the mother’s behaviour are closely meshed (Kaye and Brazelton, 1971(1)). Human infants feed with a ‘burst–pause’ rhythm, in which they suck for a while, and then pause for a few seconds before starting to suck again. It was found that mothers usually synchronise their own behaviour to this rhythm from the very first feed: they tended to speak to their baby during a pause rather than while the baby was feeding.
Once the mother stops jiggling, the baby is more likely to start a new burst of sucking. The mother’s response is both predictable and contingent on the child’s behaviour and, as such, is believed to provide the child’s first experiences of relatedness.
Pseudo-dialogue: this synchronised turn-taking behaviour produces a very ‘conversation-like’ interaction between the two during feeding and is often referred to as a pseudo-dialogue. Similar turn-taking behaviour has also been observed in other parent–child interactions, such as Peek-a-boo and other face-to-face play (Kaye and Fogel, 1980)(2) and has been suggested to have an important role in the development of language (Bruner, 1985)(3). Language Development/Developmental psychology.
Proto-dialogue: Initially controlled by the adult, these turn-taking episodes are progressively driven by the infant and their own active, appropriately timed inputs. In this way pseudo-dialogue gradually metamorphoses into proto-dialogue, still without the meaningful language content that will come later, but with a clearly defined turn-taking framework.
Motherese: [this is a] distinctive speech pattern characterised by a lot of repetition, simplified short utterances, raised pitch and exaggerated expression (Kuhl 2000)(4).
Upton I 61
(…) during the 1970s it was observed that this speech pattern is used not only by mothers, but also by women who have not had children (Snow, 1972)(5), fathers (Berko Gleason, 1973)(6) and even four-year-old children (Shatz and Gelman, 1973)(7). Thus a more accurate term for this distinctive form of speech is ‘child-directed speech’ (Matychuk, 2005)(8). >Motherese/Developmental psychology, >Motherese/Cultural psychology.



1. Kaye, K and Brazelton, TB (1971) Mother–infant interaction in the organization of sucking. Paper presented to the Society for Research in Child Development, Minneapolis, MN, March.
2. Kaye, K and Fogel, A (1980) The temporal structure of face-to-face communication between mothers and infants. Developmental Psychology, 16: 454–64.
3. Bruner, JS (1985) Actual Minds, Possible Worlds. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
4. Kuhi, P(2000) A new view of language acquisition. Proceedings of the NationalAcademy of
Science, 9 7(22): 11850—7.
5. Snow, CE (1972) Mother’s speech to children learning language. Child Development, 43 (2): 549–65.
6. Berko Gleason, J (1973) Code switching in children’s language, in Moore, TE (ed.) Cognitive Development and the Acquisition of Language. New York: Academic Press.
7. Shatz, M and Gelman, R (1973) The development of communication skills. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 38: serial no. 152.
8. Matychuk, P (2005) The role of child-directed speech in language acquisition: a case study. Language Sciences, 27: 301–79.


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution.
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Developmental Psychology
Upton I
Penney Upton
Developmental Psychology 2011


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