Child-directed speech prosody in adolescents: relationship to 2D:4D, empathy, and attitudes towards children.
This study explores how 2D:4D digit ratio, Empathising Quotient (EQ), and child-related attitudes are linked to prosodic characteristics of child-directed speech (CDS) in childless adolescents. Pitch, pitch range, and phoneme durations were measured in 44 females and 45 males addressing an adult and a 4–5 months old infant. The results showed that CDS increases in pitch and pitch range were similar in males and females while phoneme lengthening, particularly fricative lengthening, was higher in females, which may point to a greater propensity to adopt a soothing intonation. Moreover, in females, higher EQ was associated with an anticipatory raise in pitch suggesting greater sensitivity to the presence of an infant even outside of child-directed interactions. In males, child-related attitude was a good predictor of prosodic adjustment in CDS while higher EQ and higher left hand digit ratio were associated with an attenuation of CDS prosody. These findings suggest that in young men, greater social awareness is linked to avoidance of potentially embarrassing prosodic features while greater prenatal testosterone exposure is linked to more normative child-related behaviours.