Academic journal article The Spanish Journal of Psychology

Functions of the Pointing Gesture in Mothers and Their 12 to 36-Month-Old Children during Everyday Activities

Academic journal article The Spanish Journal of Psychology

Functions of the Pointing Gesture in Mothers and Their 12 to 36-Month-Old Children during Everyday Activities

Article excerpt

This study longitudinally examined the production of pointing in four Spanish 1-year-old and four Spanish 2-year-old children in interactive situations with their mothers at home over the course of one year. Three aspects were analyzed: a) the functions of the pointing gesture, their accurate comprehension by the interlocutor (mother or child), and their order of emergence in the child; b) whether or not there were differences in the production of pointing according to who initiated the interaction; and c) whether maternal and child speech were related to maternal and child pointing production. The results showed that the pointing function of showing is the most frequent for both children and mothers from groups 1 and 2, and the first to emerge followed by the informing, requesting object, requesting action, and requesting cooperation functions. The accuracy with which these intentions were comprehended was found to be very high for both mother and child. Pointing production was greater when the speaker initiated the interaction than when the other person did, indicating that gestures follow the turn-taking system. Finally, the production of pointing to showing in children and mothers was found to be related to maternal and child speech, while pointing to request cooperation triggered the process of joint activity between mother and child.

Keywords: pointing gesture, mother-child interactions, longitudinal study.

Se examinó longitudinalmente durante un año la producción de gestos de señalamiento de 8 niños (4 de 1 años y 4 de 2 años) en situaciones interactivas con sus madres en el hogar. Se analizaron tres aspectos: a) las funciones del señalamiento, su uso y comprensión por parte de la madre y del niño y su edad de emergencia; b) si existían cambios en la producción de señalamientos de la madre y del niño en función de quién inicia la interacción; y c) si había relación entre las funciones del señalamiento y la producción verbal de la madre y del niño. Los resultados sugieren que el señalamiento de mostrar tiene una mayor producción tanto en la madre como en el niño y a nivel evolutivo emerge primero, seguido del de informar, pedir objeto, pedir acción y cooperación. La madre y el niño interpretan con precisión las diferentes funciones de los gestos de señalamiento. Iniciar la interacción verbal incrementa la probabilidad de producir señalamientos lo que indica que los gestos también se articulan según el sistema de turnos. Por último, la función de mostrar está más relacionado con el desarrollo lingüístico, mientras que la de cooperar dispara el proceso de colaboración entre madre e hijo.

Palabras clave: gesto de señalamiento, interacción madre-hijo, estudio longitudinal.

Children tend to communicate through a variety of gestures, one of which is pointing; this consists of extending the index finger with a raised arm to indicate something (Bates, Benigni, Bretherton, Camaioni, & Volterra, 1979; Pettito, 1993; Rodrigo et al., 2005). Various studies have shown the importance of this gesture during the child's early phases of linguistic development, and its omnipresence in the acts of communication that take place between them and their mothers during day-to-day activities (Baldwin, 1991; Camaioni, Castelli, Longobardi, & Volterra, 1991; Fenson et al., 1994; Rodrigo et al., 2004). The authors of this study were particularly interested in exploring in detail the plurality of functions of the pointing gesture used by mothers and children, which can be inferred by analyzing each person's communicative intention. In order to do so, not only the two functions of the pointing gesture (imperative and declarative) described in the pioneering work of Bates, Camaioni, and Volterra (1975) were explored. Other possible functions suggested in more recent research were studied, too (e.g., Liszkowski, Carpenter, Striano, & Tomasello, 2006; Tomasello, Carpenter, & Liszkowski, 2007). In addition, we analyzed the relationship between said functions and language. …

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