Verbal and nonverbal conversational behaviors often are the target of intervention for adolescents with social communication disorders. There are, however, few sources of data on the interactive conversational behaviors of typically developing adolescents that can be used as guidelines when working with clinical populations. The purpose of this study was to collect behavioral data from conversations of adolescents so as to provide comparison data for adolescents with communication disorders.
Conversational behaviors were measured in 50 typically developing African American and Caucasian adolescents (24 females, 26 males) from the Midwest United States who engaged in extemporaneous, 3-minute conversations in dyads with peers. The effects of age, race, and sex of the participant were assessed.
Behaviors occurring at relatively high frequencies included directing gaze at the partner, particularly during listening; nodding and showing neutral and positive facial expressions; using back-channel responses; and giving contingent responses. Participants rarely showed negative emotions, turned away from each other, asked for clarification, or failed to answer questions. Overall, there were few effects of race and sex of the speaker and greater variability within than between groups.
The data may serve as a source of information for clinicians serving individuals with communication disorders, with the caveat that the conversations included here represent a subset of typical adolescent interactive conversational behaviors.