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Low-Income Fathers' Linguistic Influence on their Children's' Language Development

Faculty Associate Natasha Cabrera begins work on the effects of speech on children

This R03 study is an in-depth examination of the language variation in low-income father-child dyadic interactions, focusing on African American children because studies suggest that they may be at high risk for school challenges. It asks: 1) How do low-income fathers talk with their toddlers? 2) What factors predict variation in fathers’ use of complex language with their children? 3) How does fathers’ language relate to children’s language? The study includes a group of fathers and their toddlers from low-income, African American families, drawn from two sites of the National Early Head Start Research and Evaluation Project. The study transcribes 10-minute father-child play interactions verbatim from videotapes using Codes for the Analysis of Human Language. Fathers’ speech acts are classified into responsive, referential, symbolic, or directive language. Similarly, children’s speech acts are classified into referential or semantic language. Their total speech acts, diversity, total words, and types are also calculated. Preliminary analysis shows that fathers with greater referential language had children with greater referential language. Further analyses will explore how fathers’ language affects toddlers’ language across sites.

A paper based on this research, "The Linguistic Contributions of Low-income Minority Fathers to their Children's Language Development" has been accepted to the Young Researchers in Developmental Psychology Symposium at the APA convention in August, 2012.

See Natasha Cabrera's profile

See the Family Involvement Laboratory website