Importance of Talking to Babies

CLAHRC Birmingham and Black Country (the precursor of CLAHRC WM) has studied the effect of perinatal support on mother-child bonding. This work is right on the money according to this year’s meeting of the American Academy for Advancement of Science. It is well known that by the age of four, children born into professional families have heard 30 million more words than those from alternative backgrounds.[1] Differences are apparent as early as 18 months of age and the words need to be spoken directly to the child – television will not do.[2] There are reasons to believe that neurons form more connections when stimulated through speech.[3] [4] Professor Christine MacArthur and Dr Sara Kenyon – main architects of the CLAHRC BBC study – will now follow-up children to see if those in the intervention group have better neuro-cognitive outcomes than those in the control. It would be fascinating to observe the effect of social interventions, such as the one we have implemented, on verbal interactions between parent and child. Our work focusses on early development because it is difficult for education and affirmative action to overcome disadvantages arising in the first years of life.

–Richard Lilford, Director of CLAHRC WM

[1] Hart B, Risley TR. Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co., Inc. 1995
[2] Fernald A, Marchman VA, Weisleder A. SES differences in language processing skill and vocabulary are evident at 18 months. Dev Sci. 2013; 16: 234–48.
[3] Noble K. Socioeconomic Disparities in the Structure of Language Areas in the Developing Brain. AAAS 2014 Annual Meeting. 14 Feb 2014.
[4] The Economist. Child Development: In the Beginning was the Word. The Economist. 22 Feb 2014. pp 67-8.


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