The Relationship between Maternal Infant-Directed Speech and Infant Attention during the First Year

Poster Presentation
Saturday, May 4, 2019: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Room: 710 (Palais des congres de Montreal)
A. J. Woolard1, T. Armstrong2, T. Benders3, A. E. Lane4, F. Karayanidis5, V. Murphy6 and L. E. Campbell7, (1)University of Newcastle, Australia, Callaghan, Australia, (2)University of Newcastle, Newcastle, Australia, (3)Linguistics, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia, (4)University of Newcastle, Callaghan, Australia, (5)Psychology, University of Newcastle, Australia, Callaghan, Australia, (6)Medicine and Public Health, University of Newcastle, Australia, Callaghan, Australia, (7)School of Psychology, University of Newcastle, Newcastle, Australia
Background: Mothers use infant-directed speech (IDS) when talking to their infants. IDS is highly effective in regulating infant attention. The most salient aspects of IDS during the first year, when attention development is occurring rapidly, are prosodic characteristics. In particular, pitch contours are highly informative for infants and contribute to attention regulation. Children with autism spectrum disorder (autism) may experience difficulties with attention regulation, impacting schooling and social interactions. IDS is known to be associated with infant attention during interactions with others, however, little is known about the relationship between IDS and the development of attention over time. The present study examined the relationship between maternal pitch contours in early infancy and infant attention at one year of age.

Objectives: The aim of this study was to explore whether the pitch contours used by mothers during IDS with their 6-month-old infants were related to the infant’s attention at 12 months, as indexed by the First Year Inventory (FYI; Reznick, Baranek, Reavis & Crais, 2007).

Methods: 21 mother-infant dyads participated in a 15-minute recorded interaction at infant age of 6 months. Infant attention was then assessed using the FYI at 12 months of age. The FYI has been adapted to assess infant attention including: responding to social attention, initiating social attention, and non-social sensory attention. A total of 3,714 pitch contours were extracted from audio collected during interactions and classified into contour types (rising, bell, sinusoidal, u-shaped, slowly-falling, rapidly-falling, and complex). Pearson’s or Spearman’s product moment correlations were used to determine the relationship between maternal pitch contours at 6 months of age and infant attention scores on the FYI at 12 months of age.

Results: Bell, sinusoidal and u-shaped (BSU) contours were combined to create one contour type as they have shown to be highly related in the literature. Infant scores on ‘responding to social attention’ were strongly associated with BSU contours (rs (21)= -.62, p=.003), and rising contours (rs (21)= .62, p=.003). Mothers who used less BSU and more rising contours with their infants at 6 months of age scored their infants more poorly on social attention scores at 12 months of age.

Conclusions: These results suggest that maternal pitch contours used with infants at six months of age are related to parent-reported infant attention at 12 months. In particular, mothers who used more BSU contours, which are thought to maintain infant attention, reported that their infants were more responsive to social attention at 12 months. Conversely, mothers who used more rising contours, which are typically used to attain infant attention when an infant is not attending, reported that their infants were less responsive to social attention at 12 months. As poorer attention is a common symptom of autism, the link between maternal use of IDS and at-risk groups needs to be explored further.