A new study finds that children who are shy of speaking understand what's being said like their less shy peers.
Children who are inhibited in their behaviour have performance problems while speaking with others but don't lack capability - meaning that they are merely reluctant to respond rather than delayed or deficient in understanding language.
The study, involving 816 toddlers, was conducted at University of Colorado Boulder and University of Connecticut in the US.
"The findings suggest that inhibited behaviours like shyness don't hamper language acquisition overall but instead relate specifically to how toddlers express themselves through words," said Ashley K. Smith Watts, graduate student, and Soo H. Rhee, associate professor of psychology.
The study also found that girls had higher levels of both shyness and language than boys.
However, the degree to which shyness was related to language development was similar for girls and boys.
Researchers collected information from 816 children in Colorado.
Information was collected at ages 14, 20, and 24 months through parent reports and by observing children during home and lab visits.
The researchers assessed spoken language by asking children to imitate certain sounds and words, and by asking the children to answer questions verbally.
They assessed their understanding of language by asking children to follow instructions.
"Shy children may need help with developing their speaking abilities," added Smith Watts and Rhee.
They may benefit from interventions that target confidence, social competence, and autonomy to support the development of expressive language, added the study that appeared in the journal Child Development.