Patronizing the Old: How Do Younger and Older Adults Respond to Baby Talk in the Nursing Home?
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To test the implications of Communication Accommodation Theory for intergenerational talk to dependent older persons, eighty young adults and seventy-one older adults evaluated speakers in a brief taped conversation. Specifically, the study was conducted to determine whether the apparent nurturant quality of the baby talk tone of voice and parental style would compensate for the lack of respect associated with this type of patronizing talk to elders. The talk was either secondary baby talk or a neutral variant addressed to an elderly resident in a nursing home by either a nurse or a volunteer. The caregivers who used baby talk were rated as significantly less respectful and competent than their peers in the neutral condition, but no differences were observed for nurturance of the caregiver. The recipients of baby talk were perceived to be less satisfied with the interaction. These findings were true for both caregiver roles and both respondent age groups.
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