Miss Alix Woolard is a current PhD student at the University of Newcastle, under the supervision of Associate Professor Alison Lane, Dr Linda Campbell, Associate Professor Frini Karayanidis, and Dr Titia Benders. She completed her honours thesis last year on infant-directed speech, and is continuing her research into this topic for her PhD. The findings from her honours thesis were recently presented at the Sixteenth Australasian International Conference on Speech Science and Technology, and you can read a brief summary below. If you would like to read the whole paper, click here and go to page 229.
The way that mothers interact and speak to their baby is an important factor in infant development, particularly in the first year of life when babies are developing language at a rapid rate. Past research has demonstrated that mothers speak in a particular way to their infants, this type of communication is known as infant-directed speech. Infant-directed speech helps mothers communicate affect and regulate the attention of their baby but little is known about how the infant influences the way the mother speaks to them. One aspect of infant behaviour that has the potential to impact infant-directed speech is infant temperament. Infant temperament has been suggested to influence the way mothers interact with infants more broadly and refers to how infants react to the environment and regulate themselves. More specifically, infant temperament include characteristics like the mood and activity level of the infant. In this research project we investigated if infant temperamental characteristics were associated with the mothers’ infant-directed speech.
Eight mothers and their 6-month-old infants took part in the study at the Hunter Medical Research Institute. Each mother and her infant were recorded interacting with one another for 15 minutes. This recording was then used by the researchers to analyse the speech of the mothers, as well as the temperament of the infant.
The results of the study demonstrated that infant temperament characteristics e.g., approach behaviours and mood were associated with the mothers’ infant-directed speech indicating that the infant is actively participating in this interaction.
The findings from this study will form the foundation of Alix's PhD research and will ultimately assist in early interventions in infant development when there are issues with the mother-infant interaction. This study also highlights the importance of further research on the relationship between mothers and their infants early on in development, where infant-directed speech is particularly imperative.
Full Citation: Woolard, AJ**., Benders, B., Campbell, LE., Karayanidis, F., Mattes, J., Murphy, VE., Whalen, O., Lane, AE (2016). Exploring the association of infant temperament on maternal fundamental frequency contours. In Sixteenth Australasian International Conference on Speech Science and Technology (pp. 229-232).