Families Communicating with Children


Why do family communication scholars have an incomplete education? And what makes their education incomplete? These questions serve as the basis for Thomas Socha and Julie Yingling's recent book, Families Communicating with Children. The authors argue that most family communication scholars receive no coursework in children's communication, and those who take courses are required to do so under the auspices of another department, yet they are considered proficient experts in “family” communication. After noting the dearth of coursework and general knowledge in the communication field regarding children's communication, the authors present their book as a way to begin to fill that gap.

Anyone who is around infants and toddlers is aware of the significant and staggering amount of development they experience. It is no surprise, then, that those who have most contact with babies--typically their families--are a large part of the socialization process and are babies' first teachers. Socha and Yingling use the example of Genie to illustrate that an absence of interaction in the formative years can have catastrophic, lifelong consequences. Genie was a 13‐year‐old girl confined to a small room in a Los Angeles suburb. She did not speak or respond to speech, and--even after extensive work with psychologists and linguists--Genie never mastered speaking; she had been deprived of language interaction during the critical period for acquiring language. The introduction of symbols and words typically occurs in baby‐ and toddlerhood, a process that becomes salient in the famous example of Helen Keller and her teacher Annie Sullivan. Before Sullivan made the connection between the feeling of flowing water and the word water, Keller had no notion of a connection between a stimulus and a thought. These two examples, introduced in the first chapter, provide a springboard for the remainder of the book. When one is devoid of human interaction and communication early in development, the implications are severe--although some rehabilitation can be possible. Though not explicitly stated, the examples help establish the necessity of a more comprehensive education of families and children.


Arts, Languages, and Philosophy

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Book - Chapter

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© 2011 National Council on Family Relations, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Jan 2011