Sensitive Moms for Faster Language Learning

by Translation Guy on March 8, 2013

Deaf kids who receive cochlear implants develop language skills more quickly if there mom is more sensitive in listening-speaking interactions. These findings from research by University of Miami Psychologist Alexandra L Quittner studied the effects of parenting on language acquisition for very young deaf children implanted with a device that allow them to her for the first time.

“I was surprised that maternal sensitivity had such strong and consistent effects on oral language learning,” says Quittner, “The findings indicate that pediatric cochlear implant programs should offer parent training that facilitates a more positive parent-child relationship and fosters the child’s development of autonomy and positive regard.”

It’s hard to argue with that. Hell, my daughter’s can hear just fine and I wish I had gotten some training. We did OK in the “positive regard” problem, since my daughter gets a 4.0 when it comes to self-regard, but the autonomy thing has devolved into irritation at the balky ATM I have become.

Researchers measured maternal sensitivity by watching videos of mother-child interaction. Degree of warmth, expressions of positive regard and emotional support were calculated.

188 kids with severe to profound loss of hearing, agedĀ  between 5 months and 5years, participated in the study. The biggest improvements in language skills were observed in those children whose parents displayed high sensitivity. Language stimulation was also important but more effective when delivered in a sensitive manner as defined by the researchers.

Children with sensitive parents had only a one-year delay in oral language development, while kids with less sensitive parents lagged on average 2.5 years. The study period lasted 8 years, and the NIH has recently funded a five-year extension of the study to investigate social and cognitive development as the kids hit adolescence.

It’s hardly surpassing that love makes for the best language lessons. Parents are the best teachers, as It is the mindset of the teacher that makes for effective instruction. Amanda Ripley took a look at this in an interesting piece in the Atlantic a few years ago, “What Makes for a Great Teacher.” The secret sauce? Perseverance. Hard to argue with that too.


  1. Samantha says:

    I’m not entirely sure you can quantify maternal warmth and emotional support. I understand the study and everything, and even believe it may have solid conclusions, but the fact that they developed a scale to measure these things seems ridiculous.

  2. I’m not sure why a pyschologist would be so surprised that having a loving and sensitive mom would have such a profound effect on children, that seems pretty common sense to me.

    • Ken says:

      I think that probably reflects on the way you were raised. Maybe mom issues is why shrinks become shrinks

  3. William Ward says:

    I think you can take this as a microcosm for why there are so many concerns about children these days, lack of parental involvment in their lives. I’m not saying that it’s the parents fault either, the world has got just so damn demanding that being there for your kid is suddenly a really hard thing to do.

  4. Suzanne says:

    Great article, really interesting.

  5. Alice Garcia says:

    Perserverance is the key, as well as paitence, the ability to consistently answer the question “why?” and smiling when you feel like screaming.

  6. Jean says:

    How does one exactly do parent training? I think it really is one of those learn as you go type deals.

  7. Mark says:

    How do these kids and mothers compare over all versus the numbers on children learning language skills period. What I mean to say is does the development of language skills for children without an impairment, such as being deaf, differ greatly because of lack of maternal warmth?

    • Ken says:

      Quality time has a quality all its own.

  8. Tracy says:

    I don’t know necessarily if have a loving mother should be given that much credit for these children learning quickly or slowly, I certainly think it can help, but I’ve known plenty of dumb kids with great parents over the years.

    • Ken says:

      I’ve known plenty of dumb kids period.

  9. nicole says:

    I didn’t realize you could put a cochlear implant in a 5 month old child.

  10. How exactly did they measure the degree of emotional warmth? Is there a formula for that?

    • Ken says:

      You can check out the links. They had a metric for it, and multiple reviewers, as I recall. Not excactly empirical but reasonable enough.

  11. Chris says:

    Breaking news: Good parents generally make good kids

  12. M.E. says:

    Like you said, hardly surprising that children with loving parents perform better, I imagine that goes for most things were parents take an interest and help the kid learn with paitence and positivity.

  13. Tony Kalker says:

    I know the feeling about the ATM thing.

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