The recent study revealed that crying infants remained calm longer if their parents sang to them rather than trying to talk to them. And making distressed babies to listen to a song played in an unfamiliar language had the same effect.
Researchers argued that the study’s results may suggest that babies are carried away by music just like grown-ups are. Isabelle Peretz, co-author of the study and researcher at the University of Montreal, in Canada, said that past studies had tired to learn more about the influence of music and speech on infants’ attention, but none of the studies tried to see how the two affected the little ones’ emotional self-control.
Study authors explained that babies lack emotional self-control, but singing may help them grow this ability. The team said that the new study may help mothers in the Western world better interact with their infants since many modern women now tend to talk to their children rather than sing a lullaby. And, this may put at a disadvantage their babies because they will be deprived of the “emotion-regulatory properties of singing.”
But not only babies will win from the situation. Parents would too. Scientists explained that singing may reduce frustration of parents that do not know how to pacify their kids faster after a long day at work, for instance. Peretz stated that ‘at-risk’ parents may develop feelings of frustration and anger when their babies start crying. And, this may result in insensitive responding and even neglect or abuse.
But if parents do not feel like singing they could play a song to their infants instead.
The study involved 30 babies aged six to nine months. When the babies were distressed, researchers played recording of soothing voices or songs in a foreign language. Mariève Corbeil, lead author of the study, said that babies stayed calm about 9 minutes after listening to the songs despite them being in a foreign language.
But after listening to recordings of human speech, they could remain calm for about four minutes. There was a similar effect when the speech was in baby talk or adult talk. The adult speech, however, was slightly under four minutes.
Next, study investigators exposed babies to recordings of their mothers singing songs in their native language. Babies remained calm for nine minutes just like they did with the songs performed in an unfamiliar language.
This means that infants respond to music in general rather than paying attention to words because they can be enraptured by music just like adults can.
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