New research explains why mothers are more likely to engage in baby talk, or "motherese," with their little ones than fathers.
A team of researchers recorded the social interactions between parents and their preschoolers over the course of an average day, the American Institute of Physics reported. They used speech recognition software determine which family member was speaking, and compared how the parents spoke to their children with how they spoke with other adults.
The findings confirmed past studies that have suggested mothers are more likely to use high and varied pitched voices with their children than fathers. In the study, fathers proved to be more likely to use intonation patterns similar to what was used with other adults.
"This isn't a bad thing at all -- it's not a failing of the fathers," said study leader Mark VanDam, a professor in the Speech and Hearing Sciences department at Washington State. "We think that maybe fathers are doing things that are conducive to their children's learning but in a different way. The parents are complementary to their children's language learning."
The study supports what is referred to as the "bridge hypothesis," which suggests that while mothers' baby talk can comfort and capture the attention of the child, a father's "normal" speech could help them better adjust to the sounds of the outside world.
The study was part of a larger initiative by Washington State to determine how fathers influence their children's language development throughout childhood.
The findings will be presented at the 169th meeting of the Acoustical Society of America.