Change Over Time in the Type and Functions of Crib Speech Around the Fourth Birthday




Mead, Danielle L.

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Crib speech, the monologue speech of a young child just before he or she falls asleep, has been examined in very few studies to date. Crib speech falls under the larger domain of private speech, which is more broadly defined as overt speech that is not directed to another person. Private speech has been explored in relation to motivational and self-regulatory functions, and there are few studies that have examined private speech in pretend play or pre-sleep contexts. This study examines the crib speech of a young girl between the ages of 46 and 50 months, and examines the different functions of her crib speech, as well as the course of linguistic and fantasy dialogue development. More specifically, this study addresses (1) what the content of her pre-sleep monologues is and if the content changes over time, (2) how her crib speech evolves linguistically over time, (3) whether the language/literacy practice function of crib speech changes over time, (4) how her fantasy dialogue in crib speech develops over time, and (5) whether there are differences in the content of speech depending on whether she fell asleep by the end of the recording. A total of 57 recordings were analyzed over months, and each lasted up to 45 minutes during her daily nap or “quiet time.” Every utterance in each transcription was coded as whispered or in full volume, spoken or sung, and social or private speech. Content codes within private speech were reliably coded into several categories: self-regulation (and then further coded as either: talk-relevant self-regulation, emotion regulation, or language modification), fantasy dialogue (and then further coded as containing role-playing content), emotion, and language/literacy practice. Repeated-measures ANOVAs and linear curve estimations were run to detect changes in the content and complexity of crib speech over three time periods (e.g., each time period consisted of 19 days), as well as over individual days. Results indicated that she did use crib speech during each recording day, lasting for an average of 41 minutes. On average, each day consisted of 340 utterances and had a mean length of utterance (MLU) of around three words, and the MLU over the recorded days revealed a non-linear, inverted-U shape curve. There was a strong positive correlation between the within-day proportions of emotion talk and self-regulation utterances. Language practice was found to increase over time, while emotion content, fantasy dialogue, and role-playing dialogue revealed a non-linear, inverted U-shape over time. She had fewer undecipherable and emotion utterances on days that she fell asleep, compared to days where she played the entire time. While the girl in this study was older than the children in prior crib speech studies, language practice and language-modification was still prevalent. Since her sung utterances were longer than spoken utterances, it may be beneficial for some children to encourage them to express their thoughts in song and to practice singing long strings of words to promote language development.



Crib speech, Private speech, Language development, Preschool