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Communication, language and mentalizing in typical and atypical children

Paper i proceeding
Författare Erland Hjelmquist
Publicerad i Symposium organized at the 13th European Conference on Developmental Psychology, August 21-23, 2007,Jena, Germany
Publiceringsår 2007
Publicerad vid Psykologiska institutionen
Språk en
Ämnesord mentalizing, theory of mind, atypical children, deafness, cerebral palsy, language access.
Ämneskategorier Psykologi


The development of social skills and mentalizing, having a theory of mind, are highlighted in perspective of early language experiences and interactive/attentive behaviour in a number of different groups. They included typically developing infants 6 months old, children with autism of different mental and language levels, deaf children and children with cerebral palsy. The deaf children were native signers (from deaf families) and late signers (from hearing families). A variety of methods have been applied, including observations, experiments and longitudinal designs. The results showed that among typical children, early cognitive and social skills together predicted cognitive level at 4 years of age. Among children with autism, relationships were found between mental and language level on the one hand, and social/attentive skills on the other. The diagnosis was not predictive in itself. The results from deaf children and children with cerebral palsy strongly indicated the importance of early conversational experience for later mentalizing, or having a theory of mind. Altogether the emerging pattern of results emphasizes the complex web of relationships between the crucial variables of social interaction, language and cognition. Importantly, the results demonstrate the role of the infant´s/child´s own contribution to early interaction and the role of language provided by the environment. The infant partly creates its environment, and is more or less immersed in a common language, enabling varying possiblites for focusing on mental states. From a methodological point of view, the need for reliable testing methods of early attentive behaviour and longitudinal studies are demonstrated

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