Friday, March 6, 2009

language development and... strollers?

a recent piece in the new york times documents a linkage between social interaction and a child's orientation in a stroller.
When traveling with their babies in forward-facing strollers, caregivers were observed speaking to infants in only 11 percent of cases, while the figure was 25 percent for those using toward-facing [rear-facing] strollers, and even higher for those carrying children or walking with them.

moreover, this appears to be causal and not an artifact of self-selection (i.e., chatty parents choosing rear-facing strollers).
In a follow-up exploratory study, we gave 20 mothers and infants aged 9 to 24 months a chance to try out both stroller types, and recorded their conversations. Mothers talked to their children twice as much during the 15-minute toward-facing journey, and they also laughed more. The babies laughed more, too.

admittedly, these are small samples (the first study included only 2700 observations) that are unlikely to be representative. still, i find the results very provocative... in no small part because the article (i should note that it is an opinion piece, not a news piece) also states that,
Neuroscience has shown that brains develop faster between birth and age 3 than during any other period of life, and that social interaction fosters such neurological development.

i certainly wouldn't go so far as to say that using a forward-facing stroller inhibits child development, nor would the author, i suspect. but it does make me think twice about the various "things" i use to make life with my child easier, and what the trade-off might be between that convenience and what is best for my child. of course, we now have all sorts of things that could perhaps offset any negative effects of a forward-facing stroller and, potentially, do more to encourage development than i could with my idle chatter anyway.

in the meantime, i'll take this opportunity to plug baby-wearing (my favorite options are the moby wrap, the wallababy solarveil ring sling, and the pouch-style hotsling) and say that riding in the back seat with my 16 month old in her still rear-facing carseat is really for her neurological development, not because i'm spoiling her!

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