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Functions of the Pointing Gesture in Mothers and their 12 to 36-Month-Old Children during Everyday Activities

  • Mercedes Amparo Muñetón Ayala (a1) and María José Rodrigo López (a2)

This study longitudinally examined the production of pointing in four Spanish 1-year-old and four Spanish 2-year-old children in interactive situations with their mothers at home over the course of one year. Three aspects were analyzed: a) the functions of the pointing gesture, their accurate comprehension by the interlocutor (mother or child), and their order of emergence in the child; b) whether or not there were differences in the production of pointing according to who initiated the interaction; and c) whether maternal and child speech were related to maternal and child pointing production. The results showed that the pointing function of showing is the most frequent for both children and mothers from groups 1 and 2, and the first to emerge followed by the informing, requesting object, requesting action, and requesting cooperation functions. The accuracy with which these intentions were comprehended was found to be very high for both mother and child. Pointing production was greater when the speaker initiated the interaction than when the other person did, indicating that gestures follow the turn-taking system. Finally, the production of pointing to showing in children and mothers was found to be related to maternal and child speech, while pointing to request cooperation triggered the process of joint activity between mother and child.

Se examinó longitudinalmente durante un año la producción de gestos de señalamiento de 8 niños (4 de 1 años y 4 de 2 años) en situaciones interactivas con sus madres en el hogar. Se analizaron tres aspectos: a) las funciones del señalamiento, su uso y comprensión por parte de la madre y del niño y su edad de emergencia; b) si existían cambios en la producción de señalamientos de la madre y del niño en función de quién inicia la interacción; y c) si había relación entre las funciones del señalamiento y la producción verbal de la madre y del niño. Los resultados sugieren que el señalamiento de mostrar tiene una mayor producción tanto en la madre como en el niño y a nivel evolutivo emerge primero, seguido del de informar, pedir objeto, pedir acción y cooperación. La madre y el niño interpretan con precisión las diferentes funciones de los gestos de señalamiento. Iniciar la interacción verbal incrementa la probabilidad de producir señalamientos lo que indica que los gestos también se articulan según el sistema de turnos. Por último, la función de mostrar está más relacionado con el desarrollo lingüístico, mientras que la de cooperar dispara el proceso de colaboración entre madre e hijo.

Corresponding author
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Mercedes Amparo Muñetón Ayala. Facultad de Comunicaciones, Ciudad Universitaria, Universidad de Antioquia, Medellín, (Colombia). E-mail:
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The Spanish Journal of Psychology
  • ISSN: 1138-7416
  • EISSN: 1988-2904
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