Linking parent input and child receptivity to symbolic gestures
This study explored the relation between parents' production of gestures and symbolic play during free play and children's production and comprehension of symbolic gestures. Thirty-one 16- to 22-month-olds and their parents participated in a free play session. Children also participated in a forced-choice novel gesture-learning task. Parents' pretend play with objects in hand was predictive of children's gesture production during play and gesture vocabulary according to parental report. No relationship was found between parent gesture and child performance on the forced-choice gesture-learning task, although children's performance was negatively correlated with their verbal vocabulary size. These data suggest a strong link between parental input and the children's use of gestures as symbols, although not a direct link from parent gesture to child gesture. The data also suggest that children's overall expectations that gestures can be symbols is unaffected by parental input, and highlight the possibility that children play a role in transforming the symbolic play behaviors that they observe into communicative signals.