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Play More, Talk More: Insights from one family’s results

Words by: Kat Peterson

Imagine a day in which you woke up after a night of bad sleep, then went on to work longer than usual, all while being constantly reminded of the rise in COVID cases and political unrest. You get home, you rush to make dinner, and you are feeling overwhelmed by the thought of getting your child through bath time and bed time.

Now, let all that go. Imagine a different day in which you woke up feeling refreshed with a semi-uninterrupted 8 hours of sleep, went to the park with your child after work, and felt more upbeat than you’ve felt in a week!

Which day do you think you would talk to your child more? Why is that? Do you believe there is something about feeling more positive or negative as a caregiver that changes how you interact with your child(ren)? Would your friends or other caregivers agree with you?

There are a variety of factors that affect our everyday routines, behaviors, and emotions. While all of these factors can alter our moods and behaviors in different ways, they can also affect the way that we interact with others, especially children. However, not all events affect people and families the same way—OK, maybe everyone would feel more positive after a good night’s sleep! This is why it was important in this study to look at which variables affected individual families most instead of only focusing on trends across different families.

As you might remember, we asked families to complete a survey with every bath time audio recording to let us know how they were feeling that day, whether they had worries, how well they slept, and how much time they had spent on work, home, and play. We wondered to ourselves: “How do caregivers’ responses to these questions relate to how much they spoke with their kids during bath time?” In other words, we asked “Are there any factors that make caregivers speak more or less to their children than other factors?” That’s where things got interesting, and showed just how diverse families can be. What we found is that, perhaps unsurprisingly, different variables affected different families differently!

In this blog, I focus on one individual family and share the top factors that led caregivers to talk to their children more (or less) during bath time. This family completed their recordings between July and August 2020, which is about 4-5 months after initial lockdown, a timeframe that experienced decreases as well as a spike in COVID-19 cases.

How to read graph: On the left axis of the graph (y-axis) are the variables. On the bottom axis (x-axis) is the standardized beta, which shows the strength of the effect each variable had on the rate of caregiver word tokens per minute. The gray vertical line indicates a neutral effect. Any points to the right of this gray line indicate a positive correlation effect (increase in average words per minute). Any points to the left of this gray line indicate a negative correlation effect (decrease in average words per minute).

Let’s break this down by going through the factors that were related to this caregiver talking less and more, in order of least strong to strongest effects.


Top 4 Factors That Made This Caregiver Talk Less:

4. The end of the month.

One of the top variables that had a negative association with how much this caregiver spoke was the end of the month. The end of the month can be a time of stress for some; for example, it could be a time of financial strain for those who are paid at the beginning of the month. For this family, the caregiver spoke less to their child near the end of the month.

3. How long the recoding was.

Recording duration also had a negative effect for this family. The longer the recording was, the less the caregiver spoke. This could be for a variety of reasons, but one possibility is perhaps due to fatigue during a longer bath time.

2. The percentage (%) of time spent on work.

For this family, the higher the percentage of time spent on work that the caregiver reported, the less they spoke during bath time. This could also be due to fatigue or a stressful working environment, but varies for every individual and family.

1. The number of days since the initial lockdown.

Finally, the caregiver spoke least when the number of days since the initial pandemic lockdown got higher. One might expect increased uncertainty and anxiety as lockdown continued, which could affect caregivers’ moods or worries and therefore their interactions with their children.


Top 4 Factors That Made This Caregiver Talk More:

4. How much their child spoke.

For this family, there is a positive association between how much the child spoke and how much the caregiver spoke during bath time. This essentially means that the more the child spoke, the more the caregiver spoke in return. This suggests that the child and caregiver were motivated by each other in terms of how talkative bath time was!

3. Daily COVID cases.

As the absolute number of COVID cases on a given day increased, so did the amount the caregiver spoke to their child. While we cannot be sure why exactly this is the case, there are several possibilities imaginable. For instance, perhaps as COVID cases go up, this led to more anxiety, which manifests in some people as talking or socializing more. Another possibility is that as COVID threatened the outside world, people might have become more protective of their inside world and preserving normalcy. We don’t know the answer, but it is interesting to ponder!

2. The percentage (%) of time spent on leisure activities.

The more the caregiver reported they spent time doing leisure activities, the more they spoke to their child. Activities like spending time outside or relaxing at home can be a source of stress relief, energy recuperation, or positive mood for many people, which might be a reason why this caregiver was likely to talk more on days they spent doing more leisurely activities.

1. Changes in COVID cases from the previous day.

At number one, the change in COVID cases from the previous day was the factor most strongly associated with the caregiver speaking more during bath time. If the increase in COVID cases from the day before was higher, the caregiver seemed to talk more to their child. Like factor #2, we do not know why this is the case, but similar possibilities might be at play.


As we can see, this individual family had several variables that seemed to affect whether they spoke more or less to their child during bath time.

Does this family’s experience resonate with you? It may not. For example, maybe after a long day of work, the only thing you want to do is spend time with your child. In that case, you might talk more on days you’ve worked more, instead of less. In fact, this is exactly what we find! Some families talk more on days they say they worked more, but other families talk less, like the one highlighted in this post. We explain more of this variability in a prior post.

Being able to capture each family’s unique experiences is the whole point of the study, and we are excited for you to follow along!

Upcoming Blog Sneak-Peek: How well do you think you can predict what makes you talk more or less? Look out for a blog soon about how one family’s predictions about factors that lead them to talk more or less to their children align with their patterns from the study!


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