Tie between toddlers' shyness, language abilities reflects reticence to respond

February 3, 2014

Previous research has suggested that shy children have difficulties with language. Now, a new longitudinal study paints a more nuanced picture. The study, of 816 toddlers, found that children who are inhibited in their behavior tend to speak less but understand what's being said as well as less shy peers. In other words, these children have performance problems when speaking with others, but don't lack capability, suggesting that they're merely reluctant to respond rather than delayed or deficient in understanding language.

The study, conducted at the University of Colorado Boulder and the University of Connecticut, appears in the journal Child Development.

"Our findings suggest that inhibited behaviors like shyness don't hamper overall but instead relate specifically to how toddlers express themselves through words," according to Ashley K. Smith Watts, graduate student, and Soo H. Rhee, associate professor of psychology, both of the University of Colorado, who were part of the research team.

The study also found that girls had higher levels of both shyness and language than boys. However, the degree to which shyness was related to language development was similar for girls and boys.

Researchers collected information from 816 children in Colorado who were primarily White but varied in and who were representative of the population of Boulder. Information was collected at ages 14, 20, and 24 months through parent reports and by observing children during home and lab visits. The researchers assessed expressive, or spoken, language by asking children to imitate certain sounds and words (like /ai/ and "mama"), and by asking the children to answer questions verbally. They assessed receptive, or understood, language by asking children to follow instructions ("Give me the cup and ball").

"Shy children may need help with developing their speaking abilities," added Smith Watts and Rhee. "They may benefit from interventions that target confidence, social competence, and autonomy to support the development of expressive . For example, caregivers can encourage them to be autonomous and arrange play dates with compatible peers."

Explore further: Toddlers' language skills predict less anger by preschool

Related Stories

Toddlers' language skills predict less anger by preschool

December 20, 2012
Toddlers with more developed language skills are better able to manage frustration and less likely to express anger by the time they're in preschool. That's the conclusion of a new longitudinal study from researchers at the ...

Language can affect children's mathematical development, study shows

December 16, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—A unique international study has found that the grammatical structures of language can influence children's early understanding of numbers.

Babbling babies—responding to one-on-one 'baby talk'—master more words

January 6, 2014
Common advice to new parents is that the more words babies hear the faster their vocabulary grows. Now new findings show that what spurs early language development isn't so much the quantity of words as the style of speech ...

'Sensitive' older sibling may help boost preschoolers' language skills

January 27, 2014
(HealthDay)—Preschoolers with lots of brothers and sisters seem to develop language skills a bit slower than other kids—possibly because they get less attention from mom and dad.

Epilepsy drug taken in pregnancy found safe in preschool child development

January 8, 2014
A new study finds that the epilepsy drug levetiracetam appears not to be associated with thinking, movement and language problems for preschool children born to mothers who took the drug during pregnancy, although the drug ...

Early childhood educators hold the key to children's communication skills

November 6, 2013
Researchers at UNC's Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute have completed a new examination of peer-reviewed science that reveals how early childhood educators can ignite the growth of language and communication ...

Recommended for you

Many kinds of happiness promote better health, study finds

July 21, 2017
A new study links the capacity to feel a variety of upbeat emotions to better health.

Study examines effects of stopping psychiatric medication

July 20, 2017
Despite numerous obstacles and severe withdrawal effects, long-term users of psychiatric drugs can stop taking them if they choose, and mental health care professionals could be more helpful to such individuals, according ...

Study finds gene variant increases risk for depression

July 20, 2017
A University of Central Florida study has found that a gene variant, thought to be carried by nearly 25 percent of the population, increases the odds of developing depression.

In making decisions, are you an ant or a grasshopper?

July 20, 2017
In one of Aesop's famous fables, we are introduced to the grasshopper and the ant, whose decisions about how to spend their time affect their lives and future. The jovial grasshopper has a blast all summer singing and playing, ...

Perceiving oneself as less physically active than peers is linked to a shorter lifespan

July 20, 2017
Would you say that you are physically more active, less active, or about equally active as other people your age?

Old antibiotic could form new depression treatment

July 19, 2017
An antibiotic used mostly to treat acne has been found to improve the quality of life for people with major depression, in a world-first clinical trial conducted at Deakin University.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.