Relationship between Language and Social Cognitive Development

 

 

 Outline

 Introduction

 Social development

 Cognitive development

 Critical Review of Literature

 The relationship between social cognitive development and Language

 Relationship between socio-cognitive development and language among Autistic

 Conclusion

  

Introduction

The relationship between social cognitive development and language development in humans is very strong because the development of language does not take place in a vacuum. Children pick up language skills, and skills to comprehend messages and situations, from the environment they grow up in. The circumstances a child is exposed to in his early childhood years affects hugely his language development and his social cognitive skills. A child with hearing impairment attains a sign system that is strongly related to social aspects and cognitive factors involved in the language acquisition process. The exploration of the relationship between cognitive development and language acquisition is instrumental in understanding how deaf children develop language. Childhood deafness blocks spoken language development which in turn has effect on social cognitive development in the child. It is imperative to note that language development is significant for social cognitive development among all children, including the deaf (Madden, 2008).  

 

The interaction between language and social cognitive development in young children is closely linked.  More specifically, children with autism experience delayed language development and take longer time to develop social and cognitive skills in comparison to their counterparts. On the other hand, children with deafness normally experience impoverished and delayed language development not as a result of cognitive development but because of delayed social development.

 

 Social development

 

Social development has over the past received a lot of interests from academicians, sociologists, and psychologist. The past researches have focused on antecedents of child academic, social, and psychological wellbeing because social development is related to the development of child from a social setting or perspective (Damon, Sigel, & Renninger, 1998). Social cognitive theory describes the process through which children acquire behavioural patterns and how they maintain the acquired behaviours (Bandura, 1997). In this context, the learned behaviours could be the process of language acquisition. Some of the factors that have effective impact on social cognitive theory are behavioral factors, people, and the surrounding environment. Social cognition is therefore, related to cognitive mediation as a result of social interaction (Kihlstrom, 2010).  In a more narrow perspective, social cognition may be used to mean social objects cognition, inclusive of people, in a social situation we found ourselves in, and the emergent interpersonal interaction from these situations (Kihlstrom, 2010). Social cognition touches different aspects such as development, intelligence, language acquisition, learning, judgement, memory, and perception (Kihlstrom & Park, 2002).

 

 

Cognitive development

 

Cognitive development is described in terms of reasoning and logic. Cognitive theory is associated with the development of an individual’s thought process (McShane, 1991; Au, 2011). Still, it explores the impact thought processes have in the way we understand and interrelate with the social environment (Clark, Marschark, & Karchmer, 2001). During cognitive development, children pass through different stages as identified by Piaget Theory. The major phases in Piaget Theory are sensorimotor stage, preoperational stage, concrete operational stage, and formal operational stage (Wood, Smith, & Grossniklaus, 2011).  Piaget believed that for a child to advance its cognitive abilities, all these stages have to be passed through. In each of the phases, a child demonstrates new intellectual abilities and progressively more understanding of the world (McShane, 1991).

 

Researchers have come up with many theories to explain this. Some of the major theories that have been used to describe cognitive development are Vygotsky's and Piaget's theories. These two theories are used to “to scrutinize language acquisition either as intrinsically tied to its social-interactive context of use or as relatively autonomous from it” (Nahrkhalaji 2009, p.2). This means that the theories are used to describe the relationship between social cognitive development and language acquisition. In language development, cognitive development is the key principle (Lee & Das Gupta, 1995). In Piagetian paradigm, cognitive development is independent in respect to language development. In this context, language plays only secondary roles in a child’s cognitive development because adaptation is what grows cognition. (Nahrkhalaji, 2009). The implication made is that language development only useful in the development of cognitive domains that depend on language development to function. However, Vygotskian paradigm tends to differ on the issue of cognitive and language development. For example, the paradigm assumes that the primary motor of development is language development. In other words, language is core in language development process because language connects both social and intellectual life (Lee & Das Gupta, 1995).

 

Critical Review of Literature

 

The relationship between social cognitive development and Language

 

There are multiple of research studies that have been carried on the relationship existing between cognitive development and language acquisition among young children. However, development of language among deaf children is usually complex because delayed cognitive development results to slow linguistic input among deaf children (Mayberry 2002; Miller, 2006). According to Meristo, Hjelmquist, and Morgan (2011), past research studies indicate that children with hearing impairments and born of deaf parents have the same chances to develop cognitive skills and language like hearing children. However, severe delays are common in regard to mentalizing abilities as a result of poor access to language from others.

 

Children usually acquire their information on language from people and caretakers surrounding them (Clark, 2004). They pick it up from their surroundings and learn from the people they grow up with. As such, they highly depend on social interaction to acquire language, which makes the process of social interaction very important (Clark, 2004; Tomasello, 2003). Through their cognitive space, children map the constructions and terms learned as they grow (Clark, 2004). This means that language has much influence on social cognitive development in children either deaf or not. Language provides children with a way that they could use to differentiate events. Delay in hearing interaction among deaf children born in deaf families result to delayed theory of mind (Meristo et al., 2011).  This is because deaf children have no access to conversations and as such, they end up missing out important information associated with their social environment.

 

Social cognition is permeated by language development. Psychologists such as Noam Chomsky “argued that language was not just a tool for communication, but also a tool for thought” (Kihlstrom, 2010, p. 1). The implication made by Chomsky was that language is used by people to embody their thoughts in regard to other people surrounding them. Language is therefore a vital medium necessary for social interaction. According to the Theory of Mind, social cognitive development plays major roles in the acquisition of language. Like mature people, children generally develop personal understanding which is motivated by social interaction and logical reasoning (Schick, de Villiers, de Villiers & Hoffmeister, 2002).  Although the environment does not wholly shape a person, it is necessary in the construction of a personal knowledge.

 

Past research has indicated that children born deaf have delays when it comes to Mind Theory understanding (Schick et al., 2002). In their study, the researchers established that deaf children more often than not miss a lot of information while in their social environments. More importantly, there is habitually a language delay among children with autism although they might be socially competent.  This implies that for the children to acquire important information they have to depend of visual means. This means that deaf children do not learn language spontaneously because they cannot hear words when spoken by others (Mayberry, 2007). To determine the effect of hearing on child’s cognitive development, Mayberry (2007) established that the core deficit related to deafness is poor language acquisition. The implication made is that incomplete language development among deaf children results to delays in understanding the actions and motivations of other people. 

 

Before children even begin to understand language or speak, they generally start processing the words in their surrounding so as to determine the phonology, and create sentences or phrases (Yang & Lust, 2009). However, for children with hearing problems, the process may take long to process the words spoken by others because they could hardly hear what is said. For this reason, their logic and reasoning though active is slow. Inadequate access to adult language among deaf children causes delay in language development in most of them. Besides, these deficits in language acquisition ability among the deaf affect participation in social interaction and cognitive maturity (Schick, de Villiers, de Villiers & Hoffmeister 2007). Theoretical claims indicate that language in children facilitates reasoning among them (Astington & Baird 2005). Therefore, since cognitive development is associated with reason, language deficit among the deaf may hinder or slow down social cognitive development. Working memory capacity facilitates false-belief reasoning and absence of language as a result of hearing impairment or deafness affects these cognitive processes (Zelazo, 1999; Herman & Morgan, 2011; Schick et al., 2007). Moreover, language provides evidence about minds to children.

 

Katheryn Meadow a pioneer in deaf children’s cognitive development observed that “the basic impoverishment of deafness is not lack of hearing, but lack of language” (Meadow, 1968, p. 29). This implies that the main developmental hurdle among deaf children is language acquisition, rather than learning how to speak. A delay associated with language development is the core feature of childhood deafness (Mayberry 2002). In Vygotskian paradigm, the use of language plays major role in cognitive development. What Vygotsky implies is that “language development is at the heart of the social line of development which interacts with the natural line of development” (Nahrkhalaji 2009, p. 2). The implication is that social development plays significant roles in language development than cognitive development.  Threfore it is crucial that suffcient importance be given to social and cognitive development in the early years in children.

 

Vygotsky further observed that language is the major force that propels cognitive development since language arbitrates the participation of a child in both his/her social and intellectual environment. In the context of a deaf child, we could conclude that inadequate language as a result of hearing problems delays cognitive development because they child cannot engage in social and intellectual environment. It is vital to observe that children born deaf experience normal cognitive development although lack of social interaction hinders them from participating in daily communicative activities (Meristo, Hjelmquist & Morgan, 2011). However exposure to language communication at early ages promotes language development in deaf children (Meins, 2011; Slaughter & Peterson, 2011). This is because exposure helps deaf children learn from others and their social surrounding.

 

Since most of the past research studies have explored the relationship between social cognitive development and language as well as on Theory of Mind, the essay shall in the following section try to answer the question: “does language play a major role in socio cognitive development among young children with autism?” Besides, study on the association of cognitive skills among children without and with autism in reference to behavioural and language concerns are limited (Long, Gurka & Blackman, 2011).

 

Relationship between socio-cognitive development and language among Autistic

 

Wright (2012) has observed that one of the core symptoms associated with autism is language development, and is closely related to deficiency in social skills. Autistic children compared to other children show different patterns of social cognitive skills development. In a study conducted by Carpenter, Pennington, and Rogers (2002) consisting 12 autistic children and 11 with developmental delays established that “children with autism had more difficulty than did children with developmental delays with two of the three types of joint attention skills: gaze following and declarative gestures” (p. 103). The study further showed that infants with autism had a different sequence of development compared to other children. Notably, the children had delayed development of social-cognitive skills (Carpenter et al., 2002; Carpenter et al., 1998). This is attributed to the fact that, autistic children learn differently in terms of delayed joint attention skills although the pattern of following, sharing, and direction in behaviour and attention domains are the same.

 

In reference to language development, the study by Carpenter et al. (2002) established that autism have reversed joint attentional engagement episodes in comparison to their counterparts. Because of delayed social cognitive development, such children have high joint attention deficiencies, which affect the rate of language development. This is supported by Wright (2012) observation that they how difficulties with joint attention and are more likely to exhibit lower language scores compared to children with superior joint attention abilities. Despite the fact that autistic children may somehow understand some words, their speaking skills are usually delayed because of reversed social-cognitive development.

 

To have a better understanding on the relation between language development, intellectual disability, and autism, researchers carried studies among children of 3 years to seven years old (Wright, 2012). The researchers concluded that children with intellectual disability and autism have low scores in receptive language than those with intellectual disability, who themselves score low in controls (Wright, 2012, p.1). This means that autistic children experience delayed language development compared to their counterparts because of delayed joint attention skills.  Skills in children suffering from autism developed slower and much later than they developed in normal children.

           

Children who have autism spectrum disorder (ASD) show possible developmental delays, which is as a result of social cognitive development factor. This is supported by a research that sought to compare the development of cognitive skills among children with ASD and those without ASD. In their research, Long et al.  (2011) compared ASD children to their counterparts of the same age group. The results showed that children with ASD showed significant delays in language skills development when compared to children of the same age without ASD (Long et al., 2011). However, the results showed that the differences in the level of cognitive skills were less in children without ASD and those with ASD. This was attributed to the finding that both children with ASD and without have the similar the pattern of following, sharing, and direction in behaviour and attention domains (Carpenter et al., 1998). Thus, language development is delayed because children with ASD take longer time to develop social and cognitive skills in comparison to their counterparts. Since children with autism are isolated from the rest of family members and society as they grow, they are likely to develop delayed language process. 

           

In a study to determine the relationship between language development and social cognitive development among children with Autism, Mayes and Calhoun (2003) in their research established that sixty seven percent of autistic children of preschool-aged showed delayed speech milestones, but had better motor milestones. The study further showed that there were differences in nonverbal and verbal IQ scores in the preschool-aged children, although the gap slowly closed as the children socialized. In their past study Mayes and Calhoun (1999) showed the same results in delayed language development and cognitive development.

 

Communication among children is pegged on the infant’s ability to wholly understand what surrounds them and experiences from people surrounding them. Inadequate understanding of the mind manifests to communicative impairment among children who have autism (Tager-Flusberg, 1999). In reference to language development, it is established that a child with autism experiences delays. Delayed language limits the development of other functions such as cognitive development. This kind of limitation is attributed to reversed understanding of the mind (Tager-Flusberg, 1992; Tager-Flusberg, 1997). Because of limited speaker-listener relationship, an autistic child finds it hard to communicate. Besides, deaf and autistic children show significant delays in regard to comprehending their theory of mind (Schick et al., 2002). This is attributed to lack of adequate access to communication in their social environment as they grow. Cognitive deficits among autistic children comprises of decoding and language aspects (Cardoso, & Fernandes, 2006). Limited socio cognitive aspects result to delayed language development among autistic children (Schick et al., 2002).  As such, they lack a significant language required in understanding what other people around them say.

 

In regard to theory of mind developing, children who have autism experience delays.  This is caused by inadequate access to reliable language source and language itself, rather than any significant cognitive problems in deaf children (Schick et al., 2002). However, cognitive discrepancies result to delays in Theory of Mind development (de Villiers & de Villiers, 2000).

 

Conclusion

 

The aim of the paper was to explore the interaction between language and social cognitive development in young children. From the review, children born deaf or with hearing impairments have significant delays in regard to indulging theory of mind. Social cognitive theory describes the process through which children are able to acquire behavioural patterns and at the same time maintaining the behaviours. In respect to the relationship between social cognitive and language development, children with hearing impairments have the same chances to develop cognitive skills and language like hearing children. Children with hearing problems take long to process the words spoken by others because they could hardly hear what is said. Thus, the major developmental hurdle among deaf children is language acquisition, rather than learning how to speak.

 

Autistic children compared to other children show different patterns of social cognitive skills development. Besides, infants with autism had a different sequence of development compared to other children. This is because they have delayed joint attention skills. It is evident that such children show difficulties with joint attention and a more likely to exhibit lower language scores compared to children with superior joint attention abilities. Language development process is delayed because children with ASD take longer time to develop social and cognitive skills in comparison to their counterparts. Children with autism experience delays in theory of mind development because of inadequate access to reliable language source. It is therefore important to incorporate language development intervention programs to help children with autism as well as deaf ones develop language at early stages.

 

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