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Shy Toddlers Aren't Behind in Language Development

shy little boy portrait
Photograph by Getty Images/iStockphoto

Some kids are outgoing and in your face and want all the attention in any given room. Then, there are the kids who are curled up behind their mom's or dad's pant leg, not answering questions asked of them. For years, researchers have theorized that shy children don't talk because of any number of reasons—but the main belief was that they were behind in language development. A new study proves otherwise.

Delayed speech and language skills have been linked to a number of struggles later in children's lives, including social struggles, depression and more. But researchers from a study say that shy children actually aren't behind on the speaking curve. A psychologist at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and one of the study's researchers, says that shy children simply have more inhibitions, but are not in fact behind their more outgoing peers.

The study looked at more than 400 families and their same-sex twins; the children were observed at multiple points in their lives, accounting for changes in speech and other developments. Researchers were able to observe the differences between how much children were speaking and how much they were understanding—showing that even though some kids weren't engaging via the spoken word, they were understanding what was being said.

"The shyness is simply inhibiting the children from interacting with the experimenters and showing that they indeed have language abilities," Soo Rhee, a psychologist at University of Colorado, Boulder, told Live Science.

Researchers note that parents shouldn't feel discouraged if their child is shy, and they should continue to treat the child the same as outgoing children. Talk to your kid and engage him regularly—he still understands and will come into his own, eventually feeling comfortable enough!

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