Individual differences in joint attention skill development in the second year

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256 Scopus citations


The development of joint attention skills is considered to be critical to early social, cognitive and language development. Joint attention skills refer to the capacity to coordinate attention with others regarding objects and events. While infants and toddlers display systematic, age related gains in joint attention skill development between 6 and 18 months of age, they also may display considerable individual differences in the development of this skill. Little research, however, has been directed toward evaluating the significance of these individual differences. This longitudinal study of 14- to 17-month-olds was designed to examine the hypothesis that individual differences in one type of joint attention skill, the tendency to follow the gaze and pointing of a tester, would be a significant predictor of receptive language development. The second goal of this study was to examine the assumption that different types of joint attention skill reflect the development of a single common cognitive process. The results provided strong support for the primary hypothesis, but equivocal support for the common process assumption. In particular, the results of this study suggested that different types of joint attention skills may reflect partially distinct processes associated with comprehension and expression factors in early social-communication development. The results of this study have implications for current conceptualizations of joint attention development, as well as for understanding the linkage between joint attention and early language development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)469-482
Number of pages14
JournalInfant Behavior and Development
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Cognition
  • Individual differences
  • Joint attention
  • Language development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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