To Sign or Not to Sign? The Impact of Encouraging Infants to Gesture on Infant Language and Maternal Mind-Mindedness

Elizabeth Kirk, Neil Howlett, Karen J Pine, Ben C Fletcher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Findings are presented from the first randomized control trial of the effects of encouraging symbolic gesture (or "baby sign") on infant language, following 40 infants from age 8 months to 20 months. Half of the mothers were trained to model a target set of gestures to their infants. Frequent measures were taken of infant language development and dyadic interactions were scrutinized to assess mind-mindedness. Infants exposed to gesture did not differ from control conditions on language outcomes; thus, no support was found for previous claims that encouraging gesturing with infants accelerates linguistic development. Microgenetic analysis revealed mothers in the gesture training conditions were more responsive to their infants' nonverbal cues and encouraged more independent action by their infant.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)574-90
Number of pages17
JournalChild Development
Issue number2
Early online date3 Oct 2012
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2013

Bibliographical note

© 2012 The Authors. Child Development © 2012 Society for Research in Child Development, Inc. This is an author produced version of a paper published in Child Development. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher's self-archiving policy.


  • Child Development
  • Female
  • Gestures
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Language Development
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mother-Child Relations
  • Treatment Outcome

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