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Release Date: 11/03/2014

Research has shown the importance of reading, talking and singing in infant and toddler language development, and a new study examines the role of gender in these parent-child conversations.

The study, led by director of Women & Infants' Neonatal Follow-Up Clinic, Betty R. Vohr, MD, FAAP, "Gender Differences in Adult-Infant Communication in the First Months of Life," published in the December 2014 Pediatrics (published online November 3), analyzed audio recordings taken at three points in time after the birth of 33 late preterm and term infants. Researchers found infant from birth through age seven months were exposed to significantly more speech from mothers compared to fathers, and that infants preferentially responded to mothers' compared to fathers' speech. They also found parents may respond preferentially to children based on gender; mothers responded more frequently to girls rather than boys at birth and at 44 weeks postmenstrual age, and there were trends for fathers to respond preferentially to sons at 44 weeks. Overall language exposure increased over time for all infants as they matured.

Study authors conclude both mothers and fathers should be informed about the important benefits of parent talk for their child's language development.

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About Women & Infants Hospital

Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island, a Care New England hospital, is one of the nation’s leading specialty hospitals for women and newborns. A major teaching affiliate of The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University for obstetrics, gynecology and newborn pediatrics, as well as a number of specialized programs in women’s medicine, Women & Infants is the 9th largest stand-alone obstetrical service in the country and the largest in New England with approximately 8,500 deliveries per year. A Designated Baby-Friendly® USA hospital, U.S.News & World Report 2014-15 Best Children’s Hospital in Neonatology and a 2014 Leapfrog Top Hospital, in 2009 Women & Infants opened what was at the time the country’s largest, single-family room neonatal intensive care unit.

Women & Infants and Brown offer fellowship programs in gynecologic oncology, maternal-fetal medicine, urogynecology and reconstructive pelvic surgery, neonatal-perinatal medicine, pediatric and perinatal pathology, gynecologic pathology and cytopathology, and reproductive endocrinology and infertility. It is home to the nation’s first mother-baby perinatal psychiatric partial hospital, as well as the nation’s only fellowship program in obstetric medicine.

Women & Infants has been designated as a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence by the American College of Radiography; a Center of Excellence in Minimally Invasive Gynecology; a Center of Biomedical Research Excellence by the National Institutes of Health (NIH); and a Neonatal Resource Services Center of Excellence. It is one of the largest and most prestigious research facilities in high risk and normal obstetrics, gynecology and newborn pediatrics in the nation, and is a member of the National Cancer Institute’s Gynecologic Oncology Group and the Pelvic Floor Disorders Network.
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