1. Duchess-Yukine-Suoh
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    Does this make sense for a 4-year-old?

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Duchess-Yukine-Suoh, Sep 12, 2013.

    I'm writing a novel that takes place in an apocalyptic setting. For a good while, 2 of my main characters (one of which is a 4-year-old) are forced to walk 200 miles to where they need to go. They don't have enough food, are cold due to it being Idaho/Canada in the fall, and are pushing themselves to walking 10-15 miles a day. Would it make sense for a four year old, under these conditions, stop talking entirely (at least until it was all over)?
     
  2. obsidian_cicatrix
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    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

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    Personally, I don't think it is the four year old talking that is the issue. Can the other character carry the child 10-15 miles a day in the cold with little food? Any four year old I know would be likely to sit down after a couple of miles and refuse to get up.
     
  3. minstrel
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    I'm just guessing, but because four-year-olds are very dependent still, she'd be very demanding and talk quite a bit. I think it's more likely that the older one would stop talking to the younger, because she'd have no answers for her.
     
  4. GingerCoffee
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    Yes it makes sense she could shut down and stop talking. Kids come in all flavors from very talkative to the silent type.
     
  5. GingerCoffee
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    We already addressed this aspect in a different thread.
     
  6. GingerCoffee
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    I would like to add one more thing. I worked a few years as a pediatric nurse and I've seen a lot of 4 yr olds. They act very differently after Mom and Dad are no longer in the room. More than a few parents would be shocked that their kids actually behave when Mom and/or Dad aren't there triggering various behaviors. When a child is frightened such as one that knows they are ill or seriously injured, of if they had to walk 200 miles to survive, they are not the same kids that throw the temper tantrum because they want to be picked up instead of walking.

    The lost boys of Sudan some as young as 4 walked as far as 1,000 miles and for as long as a year.
     
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2013
  7. ChickenFreak
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    It doesn't really ring true for me. This isn't a sudden traumatic situation that might make a child withdraw; to me, it's sustained deprivation, in the company of a trusted person. It seems to me that that would more likely make the child more demanding of interaction and comfort.

    Not that I have any expertise whatsoever, but that's how I'd see it as a reader.
     
  8. obsidian_cicatrix
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    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

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    @GingerCoffee Thanks for that. I was temporarily blinded by the nature of the question. If that has already been dressed, fair enough. I do realise that all children are unique, and depending on circumstances (and variables) will act differently. For example a privileged child who is used to getting their own way will act in a completely different manner to those who have had to become independent and self-reliant in order to ensure their survival.

    I agree, I see it all the time in regards to my grandson. When I'm minding him and his parents come in from work he overplays his hand, manipulating them, forgetting that I'm still in the room and am wise to his behaviour. His folks think I'm some kind of super gran, when I can stop him from acting out with a single look, when their efforts to stop his bad behaviour fail. What is actually happening is that he acts according to his audience. They are more emotionally bound to him and he understands this can be used to his advantage. Once it occurs to him that I'm witnessing and know what he's up to, he ceases and desists. It's an aspect of child development and growth I find fascinating, how even at such a young age they are quite capable of manipulating to their own ends. This starts before they are even able to verbally communicate, and is, unfortunately, why some new mothers end up feeling less capable. You live and learn.

    @Duchess Apologies for that.

    I tend to agree with ChickenFreak. I think it would be easier for me to accept if it was triggered by a traumatic event, or neurological damage.

    I'm not sure the journey being over would be enough for me to buy into the child miraculously finding his/her voice again. Certainly in many cases of selective mutism, anxiety and social phobias play a big part, and these are things that linger even when there is no longer a perceived threat. For the child to suddenly start talking again would feel a little too convenient to me.

    I'm curious why you started thinking about this in the first place. What purpose does the child being mute, or at least refusing to speak serve?
     
  9. EllBeEss
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    EllBeEss Contributing Member

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    Maybe if its just for the journey it could be more out of exhaustion. I can't imagine a child walking 10+ miles a day and being happy, chirpy and talkative. When the kid was walking they might not talk due to exhaustion and when they've stopped the smaller child would either be eating what little food there was or sleeping. If the child starts talking again once they reach safety I think it would be more believable if it was due to the environmental factors rather than a psychological issue.
     
  10. obsidian_cicatrix
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    Neither can I, but to completely stop talking?
     
  11. EllBeEss
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    With the right personality it isn't that hard to imagine. In my experience tired children tend to ask fewer questions especially if they don't think they're going to get any answers.
     
  12. Steerpike
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    I don't find it hard to imagine. It is up to you as the author to make us believe it, that's all. I don't have a problem with a four-year old covering that much ground each day, or having any of a number of different reactions to having to do so. It is going to come down to your skill in handling it in the story.
     
  13. peachalulu
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    What Steerpike said. It's only logical if you make it logical. She has to have the personality where being mute is either a solution
    a reaction. And the walking would be an issue for everyone not just the four year old.

    I'm from Ontario, Canada and in certain area's you can walk in the fall and it's no problem, in fact it's hardly cold,
    but forty or fifty miles north or south and you could be mushing through a blizzard on the same day.

    Maybe add in a wagon or a sled for her to sit on or one of those dollies you get at Home Depot.
     
  14. m24p
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    My son has walked roughly a mile in a go before four. I assume a kid who actually grew up in a harsher environment would be OK with walking 10-15 miles in a day. I sincerely doubt he would stop talking, but maybe that's just me and my kids, and not a universal thing. I definitely would expect the kid to be chatty.
     
  15. Duchess-Yukine-Suoh
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    Thanks for the huge response guys! I am thinking of having a wagon for her to ride in part of the way, but only near the very end as they used it to hold food (but when they've eaten most of it, there is room for her.)

    Thanks again guys! I came up with a lot of good ideas thanks to you! :)
     
  16. m24p
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    Sorry, I missed that the four-year-old is a girl. She'd be even more likely to continue to talk, in my opinion. From a quick Google search I found that
    (from http://fla.sagepub.com/content/24/3/267.abstract )

    This has also been my experience with my children, although I'm sure the fact that my daughter has an older sibling strengthens this gap.
     
  17. GingerCoffee
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    That study looked at verbal competence. It's a completely different outcome measure from talkative or quiet.

    I also find many conclusions about kids in this thread to lack cultural considerations. Little girls in many parts of the world live in conditions that would give a completely different result than one's experience with children in the Western cultures. Abused kids don't fit that mold either. And even if in one culture the norm was chatty little girls, the range would still include chatty boys and quiet girls.
     
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  18. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    This is an excellent point. Bringing up statistical studies isn't really very useful, because statistics apply to large groups, not to individuals. This is an individual four-year-old girl we're talking about here, and she is anything Duchess wants her to be. If she doesn't talk, she doesn't talk, and no statistical study is going to say she does talk.

    Duchess, write her the way you want, and if you do a good job, nobody will question you.
     

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