Numerous studies have shown the importance of talking to your child from the start of life as hearing the human voice helps to facilitate an infant’s growth and development. In a landmark study from 1995, it was shown that academic success as well as IQ were influenced more by parental speech patterns early in life than by education and socioeconomic status.1 An interesting new small study that will be published in the December 2014 issue of Pediatrics was conducted to find out who does more talking to infants- mothers or fathers?
“This study concluded that mothers spoke nearly three times more words per hour to their infants when compared to fathers at each of the study time points.”
The study measured the amount of “communication” between infants and both moms and dads at three points: at birth, around 1 month of age (1 month after the actual due date), and at 7 months. The infants in the study wore a special “device” that counted their vocalizations as well as those from both mom and dad over a 16 hour time period. This study concluded that mothers spoke nearly three times more words per hour to their infants when compared to fathers at each of the study time points. Also of note, infants “spoke” more to mothers than they did to fathers. The last important take away was that moms responded to “baby talk” almost 90% of the time as compared to dad’s responding only 30% of the time.
“Your precious baby doesn’t care if you are singing the alphabet or reciting your thesis on nuclear power…as far as they are concerned, you are talking to and engaging with them!”
I do not think anyone would be surprised to learn that moms reign supreme when it comes to winning the prize for number of words said in an hour to their infant. What is striking though is just how much more moms are talking and responding to babies over their daddy counterparts. As parents we should remember that this is one time that it is not the content of what we are saying that counts but the simple act of talking out loud that stimulates the infant brain. Your precious baby doesn’t care if you are singing the alphabet or reciting your thesis on nuclear power…as far as they are concerned, you are talking to and engaging with them!
So while some may think this study just perpetuates stereotypes of ladies having more to say than gentlemen, I think it can serve as a reminder of just how important early communication and verbal interaction with your infant can be. Whether you are planning your next grocery trip, deciding who you want to play on your fantasy football team for the week, beginning your Christmas list, or reviewing how to change a flat tire, both moms and dads should verbalize as much as possible around their infant. Your higher IQ, more scholarly kiddos will thank you later in life even if their success started with Daddy signing the Aggie War Hymn at 2 weeks of age!
To check out the full study, click here.
 Hart B, Risley TR. Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children. Baltimore, MD: P.H. Brookes; 1995