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Why Moms Do 'Baby Talk' Better

A new study reveals that mothers speak differently to their children when compared to fathers. Most mothers don't even realize when they are using "baby talk."

Mark VanDam, a professor in speech and hearing sciences at Washington State University, wanted to know if men and women communicate differently with their children, and the answer is a resounding yes.

Researchers working with VanDam attached recording devices to both parents and their toddlers for one day while they were at home, to keep the study in a more natural setting. Both parents lived with their children full-time.

The results were as expected. Mothers spoke to their children in different tones, essentially using "baby talk" while fathers spoke the way they would to another adult. They didn't change their speaking patterns at all, even if they were the ones who spent more time during the day with their children.

The difference in communication can be traced back to a theory first introduced in the 1970s, according to Time magazine. It proposes that mothers are responsible for teaching their children a gentler, more intimate form of communication. Fathers are supposed to teach their toddlers about the "outside world," and they keep their communication more formal and polite.

"The basic idea is that moms provide the link to the domestic, more intimate type of talk," VanDam said. "In that sense, moms and dads provide different kinds of experiences that give kids more comprehensive exposure to what kinds of language they need in the real world."

VanDam and his team hope to expand their study to include single-parent and same-sex families to see if the results differ at all from their current findings.

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