Research Roundup: How social influences shape a child’s development

By LENA Team

  1. Children’s self-control influenced by their peers

    A child’s exercise of self-control may be strongly influenced by their peer group, according to new research from CU Boulder.

    The study administered the classic marshmallow test to children, asking them to wait to get two marshmallows instead of getting one immediately. Children who were told that members of their “in-group” opted to wait to receive marshmallows were twice as likely to wait themselves, and perceived the other children as nicer.

    These new findings challenge the common belief that self control is primarily shaped by neurocognitive factors within an individual.

    “Typically, self-control has been thought of as a trait that a child has or doesn’t have,” said lead author Sabine Doebel, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience. “Ours is the first study to show that group behavior and group norms influence self-control in children.”

    Read the full summary of the article at Colorado.edu or in Psychological Science.

  2. Music fosters social connections between infants and caregivers

    A new study from the University of Toronto found that infants who engaged in synchronous songs and rhymes with an experimenter — a stranger whom they’d recently met – were more likely to help the experimenter later when she dropped an item near the child.

    “Moving together to the music created a connection — a connection that manifested itself through helpfulness,” writes NPR journalist Shankar Vendantam.

    The researchers also investigated how singing lullabies affects both a child and mother’s stress reactions. While they expected to see the baby’s stress level decrease, they were surprised to learn that singing helped to calm mom down, too.

    “We usually think of that unidirectional relationship: When Mom sings to baby, it’s to change the baby’s behavior,” lead author Laura Cirelli said. “But I think the really new interesting thing here is considering how it is also affecting the mom.”

    Read a summary of the study at npr.org, or click here to read the full text.

  3. Early childhood stressors impact adolescent brain development

    A 20-year longitudinal study from Radboud University Nijmegen found that stress from negative experiences in early childhood may cause the brain to mature more quickly during adolescence. Specifically, the scientists found a relationship between early stressors and adolescent maturation in the prefrontal cortex, amygdala, and hippocampus regions of the brain that regulate social and emotional functioning.

    “From an evolutionary perspective, it is useful to mature faster if you grow up in a stressful environment. However, it also prevents the brain from adjusting to the current environment in a flexible way. In other words, the brain becomes “mature” too soon,” researcher Anna Tyborowska said. “What makes this interesting is that a stronger effect of stress on the brain also increases the risk of developing antisocial personality traits.”

    Read a summary of the article at Sciencedaily.com or the full article at Nature.com.

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    LENA Team

    The LENA Team is a dedicated group of professionals who are passionate about increasing awareness of the importance of early interactive talk. We are statisticians, speech-language pathologists, curriculum specialists, engineers and linguists.

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