Currently, attention of many psychologists in the world is drawn to the problems of early childhood. This interest is not accidental since the first years of human life are the period of the most intense moral development that lays the foundation for physical, mental, and moral health. An unborn child is an evolving human being. Conditions of the child’s development largely determine his/her future. Influence of mother relationship with the unborn child is extremely important for its development.
Nowadays, development of the media has greatly reduced the dialogue with each other in many families. However, even the best children’s programs cannot replace parents’ communication with their children. The child’s learning occurs not by passive acceptance, but as an active form of communication with adults. Therefore, reading, talking, and singing to a baby promote the child’s development.
Benefits of Reading, Talking, and Singing to a Baby
The mastery of speech as a means of communication goes through several stages during the first years of life.
- The first stage is the preverbal one. A child does not understand the speech of adults and cannot speak at this stage, but it gradually provides conditions for the language acquisition in the future.
- The second stage is speech emergence, namely transition from the complete absence of speech to its appearance (Buckley 25). A child begins to understand simple sentences of adults and say the first words.
- The third stage covers all subsequent time, up to the age of seven when a child masters speech and uses it in an increasingly sophisticated and varied way to communicate with surrounding adults. It is the stage of verbal communication development (Buckley 27).
Analysis of the behavior of young children shows that nothing in their life and behavior necessitates the used speech (Robinson 31). A child starts to acquire speech only because of the presence of an adult who constantly refers to a child with verbal statements and requires an adequate response to them (Robinson 32). Hence, a special kind of communication problem to understand speech and say a verbal response occurs only in communicating with adults. Therefore, the communicative factor is a decisive condition for the emergence and development of speech in children.
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The communicative factor affects language development in children and its interpersonal functions at all three stages of development (in the preverbal period, at the time of occurrence, and in the process of its development in the future) (Keenan and Evans 20). Apparently, this effect is not manifested equally at each stage. This is because the very communicative factor in children varies in different periods of child’s development. It undergoes the most serious changes during the pregnancy of an expectant mother and the first months after birth.
The Role of Sound during Pregnancy and First Months after Birth for a Child
Researchers of the intrauterine growth allocate the following sequence of sensory and motor functions development of the fetus. Capacity for the tactile sensitivity and the first movements of the fetus are observed in the seventh week of pregnancy. The vestibular system is already formed in the sixteenth week of pregnancy. The first facial movements occur in the same week. Regular respiratory movements are formed in the seventeenth week of pregnancy. The twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth weeks develop the ability to scream and the ability to listen accordingly. The ability to experience taste, see, feel pressure, pain, and temperature sensitivity is formed around the same time (Levine and Munsch 16-17). Thus, the basis of the motor and sensory activity is laid in the first half of pregnancy.
Modern psychoanalytically-oriented psychology has lots of evidence relating to affective experiences of the fetus in the womb. The fact that the perception of sounds and the human voice is possible well before birth is confirmed by the studies of mental development in preterm infants (Keenan and Evans 11). There is evidence that a child will have a much better musical and linguistic abilities if the mother listens to music during pregnancy (Keenan and Evans 14).
American psychoanalyst Patricia Bauer believes that the structure of the self appears primarily as a sound shell and a kind of “acoustic skin” (Bauer 71). The child’s development occurs in a font of sounds that accompany the process of feeding and come from both the outside world and a child. These sounds are a prerequisite for the development of the child’s inner self (Bauer 74).
Even before reaching the age of one month, there is the ability to understand the value of acoustic interventions. Response to sound signals is observed in the baby much earlier than visual and psychomotor reactions. Apparently, the acoustic response can be viewed as a prototype of early differentiated learning (Hupp and Jewell 61).
While the process of feeding and infant isolation is perceived only as a one-way process, the perception of sound allows the baby to go through the space around him/her, allowing to interact with the world. In addition, the child’s perception of sounds creates the first space-acoustic image of his/her own body. Finally, the perception of sounds becomes the child’s special relationship with the outside world by the type of real symbiosis with the mother (Keenan and Evans 29-30). It would be impossible for a child to follow an imaginative fusion at the level of imagination and fantasy without such symbiotic acoustic communication.
Communication with a Child via Reading, Talking, and Singing
It is now established that the formation of neural structures of the brain can be controlled by changing duration and concentration of the information flow (Smidt 48). It is very important for an expectant mother to get positive information from the contact with nature, music, painting, and so on. For example, there is a kind of ritual in the tradition of the Indian people: a woman receives gifts and favors from their relatives and friends every week of pregnancy.
According to researchers, hearing organs of a child are formed by the twenty-fourth week of the fetal development (Levine and Munsch 17). On the seventh month, a child perceives not only the mother’s heartbeat, but also the sounds of the outside world (Levine and Munsch 18). Quiet mother’s heartbeat is the best music for a child. As a proof, there was an experiment in the newborn ward. The scientists turned on the sounds of anxious and calm heartbeat alternately. They found that children woke up and cried in the first case, but continued to sleep with the sounds of a calmly beating heart (Levine and Munsch 21). This fact means that a child reacts differently to the state and behavior of his/her mother. Therefore, she should be less angry, irritated, and frustrated.
The duty of all people surrounding an expectant mother is to help keep her in a good mood and protect her from any kind of stress. A baby hears not only the mother’s heartbeat, but also her voice, the father’s voice, and the sound of music. Parents should communicate with a baby, tell him/her tender words, sing songs, and play melodious music. As established by years of research, a child responds the best to classical music, lullabies, and nature sounds since all of these cause positive emotions in a future mother (Socha and Stamp 33).
Many beautiful odes have been sung in honor of the human voice. The mother’s voice is not just a beautiful voice. This is the main tool of prenatal education and further socialization of a child in early childhood. A child enters the world of human culture via the mother’s voice, perceiving primary vibrations that form the underlying personality structure. According to the studies, gentle vibrations of the mother’s voice are a kind of spiritual and musical homeopathy, which is able to form the child’s soul (Socha and Stamp 36).
Since the prenatal period, every sound uttered by a future mother influences development of a child and literally sculpts the body and the mind. During pregnancy, singing and speech of an expectant mother change the respiratory rate, which determines the redox processes in the body of the fetus (Smidt 48). At the same time, diaphragm puts a mild pressure and makes an involuntary internal massage. Singing of a mother changes not only the blood flow in her blood vessels, but also the child’s blood circulation, activating his/her motor activity. Prenatal fetal movement patterns are formed as a result (Smidt 51). It should be emphasized that the emotional experience of singing and listening to music by a future mother has a hormonal effect on the fetus. Vibrations of the mother’s voice are transmitted through various mediums in the woman’s body. Experts have established a positive psycho-correctional impact of the mother’s voice on the mental health of people who have suffered from severe stress situations (Socha and Stamp 42). It should be noted that the record was held via the aquatic environment that simulated amniotic fluid. The perception of resonating and the vibration of the spinal column expand the low frequency spectrum. Moreover, a child receives a certain amount of information from his/her mother via singing and speech. That is why it is very useful for a future mother to comment on her daily activities and explain them through verbalizing.
Tactile sensations of the child are also of great importance. A touch on the stomach in the prenatal period, as well as stroking and further interaction with the infant during hygiene procedures, bathing, dressing, feeding, games, and entertainment are equally important during the child’s growth. The intonation of mother’s voice has a deeper impact on the fetus or a child than any external sounds, including classical music (Smidt 63).
Today, scientists attribute a special role to hearing in human body. They argue that hearing controls the overall maturation of the brain before the birth and largely determines development of those parts of it that are responsible for the world of senses, intelligence, and movement (Smidt 67; Bauer 84). Therefore, communication with a baby aloud, reading fairy tales and poetry, and singing lullabies before birth are not a new-fangled nonsense for future moms and dads, but an urgent need for the developing baby and return to traditions that have existed for thousands of years in any of the ancient cultures.
It has been considered for long that sounds reach the baby through the abdominal wall. In fact, only the loudest ones are capable of overcoming this barrier. Today, it is known that entire human skeletal system is a complex and perfect sound conductor created by the very nature (Keenan and Evans 126). Thus, there is no need for a future mother to raise her voice in order to let the baby hear her. Actually, it is the other way around because the sound that is gentle and pleasant to the ear of the expectant mother is also pleasing to the ear of her baby. Accordingly, sounds, which are too loud and harsh for the mother, are unpleasant and repulsive for the baby. It should be remembered that people could adapt quite easily to loud sounds, while the baby is defenseless (Keenan and Evans 128).
Obviously, the sound environment of a baby before birth depends largely on future parents. The sound can have both devastating and harmonizing effects. For example, a four-month fetus has a rapid heartbeat under the influence of loud sounds; he/she starts to behave restlessly. Sometimes, the baby can respond with a foot pushing (Robinson 49). Often, pregnant women say that they had to leave some musical event because of intolerable leg blows in the abdominal wall. The bass sound that is pronounced in modern pop music and especially rock music resonates at the base of the spinal column of the future mother and causes strong vibrations that reach the baby directly. It is also known that modern popular music with fast, loud, and syncopated rhythms adversely affects the rhythm of heartbeats. As a result, the heart cannot maintain its perfect rhythm. A baby perceives such a sharp change in the mother’s usual rhythms of the body as a threat and begins to worry, adversely affecting the whole body (Keenan and Evans 134).
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Babies love to listen to classical music and researchers have particularly noted the beneficial influence of music from the Baroque period and classicism, which is close to the human heart rate at rest (Robinson 54). Famous composers of the Baroque period like Bach, Vivaldi, Boccherini, Telemann, or Handel and of the Classical period like Mozart and Haydn are perfect for this purpose (Robinson 56). The most beneficial effect of slow parts of symphonies and concerts that sound in adagio, andante, or largo tempo have the most beneficial effect. Of course, classical music does not fit into the bustle of the modern pace of life, but it is able to touch something much deeper in the soul since it is very beneficial for the baby of the waiting period when susceptibility and sensitivity of the future mother increase due to hormonal changes.
It is very important for a future mother to like music that she listens to during pregnancy. After all, an expectant mother is an intermediary between the baby and the outside world and, then, the baby accepts her attitude and mood. Music, causing a state of harmony, charm, beauty, and peace, will transmit the same sentiments and the same values to the baby. Of course, an expectant mother can pick up such a calm and light music in the genre she likes.
However, there is music that has no competition and affects a baby in the most beneficial way. It is singing of lullabies. The tradition to sing a calm song before the birth of the baby and after it has been known since ancient times. The baby hears the voice of the mother before birth. Besides, it is able to distinguish it among all other voices immediately after birth. Singing voice, when to compare to a talking one, contains a much wider range of frequencies and carries all the sensations and stimuli, which are very beneficial for the development of the baby. Thus, singing during pregnancy improves health of a mother and her baby and is a universal way to transform negative conditions.
Social environment is an external condition and a true source of a child’s development since it contains all of the material and spiritual values that every single individual should possess in his/her development process. Reading, talking, and singing to a baby contributes to the child’s development process. Development of communication, as well as complexity and enrichment of its forms open all the new features of the surrounding environment to a child. This fact is of paramount importance for the progress of child’s mental development.