Point, walk, talk: Links between three early milestones, from observation and parental report.

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Around their first birthdays, infants begin to point, walk, and talk. These abilities are appreciable both by researchers with strictly standardized criteria and caregivers with more relaxed notions of what each of these skills entails. Here, we compare the onsets of these skills and links among them across two data collection methods: observation and parental report. We examine pointing, walking, and talking in a sample of 44 infants studied longitudinally from 6 to 18 months. In this sample, links between pointing and vocabulary were tighter than those between walking and vocabulary, supporting a unified sociocommunicative growth account. Indeed, across several cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses, pointers had larger vocabularies than their nonpointing peers. In contrast to previous work, this did not hold for walkers' versus crawlers' vocabularies in our sample. Comparing across data sources, we find that reported and observed estimates of the growing vocabulary and of age of walk onset were closely correlated, while agreement between parents and researchers on pointing onset and talking onset was weaker. Taken together, these results support a developmental account in which gesture and language are intertwined aspects of early communication and symbolic thinking, whereas the shift from crawling to walking appears indistinct from age in its relation with language. We conclude that pointing, walking, and talking are on similar timelines yet distinct from one another, and discuss methodological and theoretical implications in the context of early development. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).





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Moore, Charlotte, Shannon Dailey, Hallie Garrison, Andrei Amatuni and Elika Bergelson (2019). Point, walk, talk: Links between three early milestones, from observation and parental report. Developmental psychology, 55(8). pp. 1579–1593. 10.1037/dev0000738 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/19712.

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Shannon Egan-Dailey

Postdoctoral Associate

Shannon is a Postdoctoral Associate in the Sanford School of Public Policy, working on Baby's First Years with Dr. Lisa Gennetian. Shannon's research examines children's language input and their developing language skills over time using various behavioral methods. She is interested in how children’s early language experience varies systematically between children and families (such as by child gender or family socioeconomic status) and how that affects children's language development. She has expertise investigating language development using experimental, observational, and longitudinal methods. On Baby's First Years, she is investigating the mechanisms of socioeconomic-based differences in children's language experiences and development.

Shannon completed her PhD in developmental psychology at Duke University in 2022, advised by Dr. Elika Bergelson. She received a BA in psychology with honors from the University of Pennsylvania in 2015.


Elika Bergelson

Associate Research Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience

Dr. Bergelson's lab has moved to Harvard Psychology; she retains an unremunerated research appointment at Duke through mid-2024 for logistical reasons. She formerly accepted PhD applicants through the Developmental and Cog/CogNeuro areas of P&N and the CNAP program.

In my research, I try to understand the interplay of processes during language acquisition.
In particular, I am interested in how word learning relates to other aspects of learning language (e.g. speech sound acquisition, grammar/morphology learning), and social/cognitive development more broadly (e.g. joint attention processes) in the first few years of life.

I pursue these questions using three main approaches: in-lab measures of early comprehension and production (eye-tracking, looking-time, and in EEG studies in collaboration with the Woldorff lab), and at-home measures of infants' linguistic and social environment (as in the SEEDLingS project).

More recently the lab is branching out to look at a wider range of human populations and at infants who are blind or deaf/heard of hearing.

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