Nonverbal Communication, Joint Attention, and Early Socioemotional Development
Peter Mundy Jennifer Willoughby University of Miami
The display of functionally distinct nonverbal communication bids becomes increasingly apparent in the behavior of infants in the 8- to 12-month period. These bids include referential behaviors, such as protodeclarative or joint attention acts, and protoimperative or requesting acts, as well as social interaction or turn-taking behaviors ( Bates, Benigni, Bretherton, Camaioni, & Volterra, 1979; Bruner & Sherwood, 1983; Sugarman, 1984).
The study of these types of nonverbal communication skills has most often been associated with research on early sociocognitive development ( Bretherton, McNew, & Beeghly-Smith, 1981; Bruner, 1975; Butterworth & Jarrett, 1991; Tomasello, 1995), and the precursors of language development ( Bates et al., 1979; Bruner, 1975; Golinkoff, 1983; Sugarman, 1984; Tomasello; 1988). However, research on the development of different types of nonverbal communication skills in the second year of life may also hold considerable potential for understanding socioemotional development in young children.
The most straightforward rationale for this hypothesis is based on possible links between language development and behavior disturbance. Children who evince delays or disturbance in language development are at risk for the development of emotional and behavioral disorders ( Baker & Cantwell,