The effect of child gender on parental nonverbal communication

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Previous work has studied parental verbal communication and found differences based on child gender. The current study was designed to better understand any differences in maternal nonverbal communication based on child gender. The nonverbal parameters analyzed were eye contact/joint attention, gestures, positive and negative facial expressions, and open and closed body language. Previously recorded mother-child play sessions when the children were 7 months (n=103) and 24 months (n=73) were coded to assess three main questions: a) Does maternal nonverbal communication differ with child gender? b) Does maternal nonverbal communication change over time? c) Does maternal nonverbal communication effect vocabulary outcomes at 24 months? Mothers used more positive facial expressions with girls at 7 months and more gestures with boys at 24 months. Mothers were consistent in their use of positive facial expressions and gestures over time. Finally, there was no apparent relationship between maternal nonverbal communication and vocabulary.