Rajalakshmi Madhavan and Nivedita Mani

The quality of caregiver-child interaction is predicted by (caregivers’ perception of) their child’s interests

Royal Society Open Science

This current study examines the extent to which children’s interests and caregivers’ sensitivity to their children’s interests are associated with the quality of caregiver-child interaction, and subsequent learning. 81 caregiver-child dyads (24-30-month-old children) completed an online shared book-reading task where caregivers and children read two e-books with pictures and descriptions of objects from different categories – one previously determined to be of low and one of high interest to the child (with one novel word-object mapping introduced in each book). We also obtained separate behavioural indices of children’s interests and children’s later recognition of newly-introduced word-object mappings. Our findings highlight that the quality of caregiver-child interaction is predicted by children’s interests and caregivers’ perception of children’s interests, although we find only limited overlap between our behavioural indices of children’s interests and caregiver perception of children’s interests. Neither of these factors predicted later novel word recognition. Thus, while the dynamics between higher quality of caregiver-child interaction, children’s interests and learning remain inconclusive, caregivers and children appear to be more attentive, enthusiastic and engaged reading about topics that (caregivers believe) interest the child. Furthermore, learning in itself seems to be successful, regardless of factors involved, through the mere task of shared book-reading.