Verbal versus nonverbal primacy: Children’s response to parental incongruent communication

Tsfira Grebelsky-Lichtman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Verbal versus nonverbal primacy is a central assertion in interpersonal communication. This study developed an analytical and theoretical framework to assess which of these two channels gains preference, during an exploration of children’s response to their parents’ incongruent communication. Incongruence is conceptualized as a discrepancy or contradiction between verbal/nonverbal communication. Parent–child interactions (n = 160) in structured joint game sequences were filmed in their homes and analyzed using a mixed multivariant design. The study expanded the theory by analyzing a wide range of social and situational contexts. The findings delineated the contexts for nonverbal primacy, verbal primacy, and reciprocal incongruence. The presented framework advanced composite theoretical accounts into a set of conclusions for verbal versus nonverbal primacy.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)636-661
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Social and Personal Relationships
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016, © The Author(s) 2016.


  • Incongruent communication
  • nonverbal communication
  • parent–child interaction
  • verbal communication
  • verbal/nonverbal primacy


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