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Baby Gestures Linked to Vocabulary Development
Date:2/12/2009

Kids from high-income families do better at both, but researchers not exactly sure why

THURSDAY, Feb. 12 (HealthDay News) -- New research suggests the income and education levels of parents are connected to a baby's skills with gesturing, which in turn can indicate whether a child will develop strong language abilities.

"The children who are gesturing about more things in their environment have larger vocabularies later," said study author Meredith L. Rowe. "And we see that children from higher socioeconomic levels are gesturing more."

The research doesn't prove that children in less privileged families gesture less and therefore grow up with more limited vocabularies. Nor is every baby destined to follow the general patterns found by researchers.

"We're not saying that gesture is the whole story," added Rowe, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Chicago. But the links uncovered in the study do help researchers "pinpoint some things that seem to matter," she said.

While they don't get quite as much attention as words, gestures are also an effective form of communication: Think of sign language, for instance. Babies, in fact, start gesturing before they speak, Rowe said.

In the new study, Rowe and researchers examined 50 children from the Chicago area when they were 14 months old and then again at 4.5 years. The researchers filmed 90-minute videos of the kids interacting with their parents at home for the first session, and tested their vocabulary in the second.

The findings were published in the Feb. 13 issue of Science.

The researchers found that the level of gesturing at 14 months is linked to the vocabulary level at 4.5 years; the income and education of parents also played a role. For instance, during the first session, the children from high-income households gestured 24 times, compared to 13 gestures from kids in low-income homes. And when both groups were
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