Close Close
Mother and Baby

Why Your Toddler Picks Up On Arguments More Than You Might Think

Children as young as 15 months old can detect anger when watching other people’s social interactions and alter their own behaviour as a result, according to new research.

The study by the University of Washington, published in this month’s Cognitive Development journal, is the first evidence that younger toddlers are capable of using multiple cues from emotions and vision to understand the motivations of the people around them.
‘At 15 months of age, children are trying to understand their social world and how people will react,’ said lead author Betty Repacholi.


‘In this study we found that toddlers who aren’t yet speaking can use visual and social cues to understand other people – that’s sophisticated cognitive skills for 15-month-olds.’
Researchers analysed the behavior of 150 toddlers at 15 months of age – an even mix of boys and girls – when watching an experimenter show them how to use a range of toys.


Another experimenter – referred to as the ‘emoter’ – then entered the room and caused an argument over the toys.
After witnessing the argument, the children then had a chance to play with the toys, whilst the ‘emoter’ either held a neutral expression, turned their back or left the room.

When the emoter was not in the room, toddlers eagerly grabbed the toy and copied the actions they had seen in the demonstration.
When they were in the room, most toddlers in these groups hesitated before touching the toy, waiting about four seconds on average. And when they finally did reach out, the children were less likely to imitate the action the experimenter had demonstrated, leading up to the argument.
Does your little one pick up on arguments? Let us know below.

Related content:


No comments have been made yet.

Chinese Gender predictor
Chinese Gender Predictor

Is it a boy or a girl? Tell our tool the month you concieved and how old you are and find out! 

Nappy rash is painful for parents as well as for your baby
Nappy rash is painful for parents as well as for your baby

Read Dr Pixie's guide to learn how to deal with nappy rash

The Magic Sleepsuit
The secret to a quiet night’s sleep – The Magic Sleepsuit

If you’re little one is struggling to settle now they’ve outgrown the swaddling stage, this could be the answer to your sleep-deprived prayers!

Celebrating parenting's small wins
Celebrating parenting's small wins

As mums, we're constantly told to enjoy every moment; in reality, parenting can sometimes be challenging. That's where small wins come in...

Subscribe to Mother&Baby

Be the best mum you can be and let Mother & Baby guide you along the way. Each issue is jam packed with REAL advice from mums just like you. Subscribe today & get a free welcome gift!

Ovulation Calculator
Ovulation calculator
Trying for a baby? Work out when you're most fertile to increase your chances of getting pregnant with our easy-to-use ovulation calculator.
Pregnant woman
Due Date Calculator

When is your baby due? If you’re having trouble remembering dates and counting up the days on your fingers and toes, don’t worry – use our due date calculator.

Get M&B in your inbox!

Sign up to Mother&Baby today and get news and advice about your body and your baby straight to your inbox every week. 

Lemonade Money
It’s time to make sure your loved ones are protected

Every parent knows the importance of planning ahead; from the new school shoes, to your little one’s education, you want to fill their future with hopes and dreams. Yet are you one of the 80% of adults here in the UK that has no life cover?