The relationship between temperament and language use in middle childhood and adolescence

The relationship between temperament, specifically sociability, and how children use language to communicate during middle childhood and adolescence was examined among 66 pairs of siblings, including monozygotic twins, dizygotic twins, and full siblings. Siblings were 8 to 14 years old and were observed in a laboratory setting. Language use was assessed by measuring latency, word use, pronoun usage, and nonverbal communication behavior in unstructured and structured contexts. It was hypothesized that participants rated as high in sociability would demonstrate a shorter latency to speak, speak more, and use language to focus attention on themselves more so than participants rated as less sociable. A twin/ sibling design was used to test the hypothesis that identical twins use language more similarly than do full siblings. It was also hypothesized that older siblings, independent of their absolute ages, would demonstrate a shorter latency to speak and would speak more than younger siblings, and that older children would exhibit a shorter latency to speak and would speak more than younger children. Results indicate that age, birth order, and sociability are associated with language use; however no evidence was found to support a relationship between language use and genetic relatedness. Implications for future research are made, which include examining additional temperament dimensions, and assessing verbal and nonverbal communication on multiple levels.