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Factors Influencing a Child's Language Development

by Erica Loop, studioD

Hearing your child's first words is truly music to your ears. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association defines language as "socially shared rules" that include the meanings and makings of words. That said, speech. communication and other parts of language development don't all happen in a bubble. Factor's ranging from a child's natural growth progression to outside influences such as peers or siblings can all affect language development.

Language Development and Milestones

While not every child will reach language milestones at the same age, the natural progression of human development is a prime factor in influencing how kids communicate. For example, it's unlikely that your 1-year-old will have the ability to put three or four words together to make a sentence. When it comes to milestones, the child development experts at PBS Parents note that by 12 months, most kids can understand up to 50 words, say three or so words and comprehend simple sentences or directions. This jumps to understanding up to 900 words and speaking more than 570 words by 30 months. By the time your child is ready to start kindergarten, chances are that he knows more than 4,000 words, can follow multistep directions and understands the basics of grammar. Although outside influences can affect this progression, the developmental processes occurring in your child are prerequisites for meeting these marks.

Social Influences

From early on, social factors are influencing your child's language development. According to the PBS Parents website, even 1-year-olds are absorbing what they hear from other people, including mom, dad, siblings or other caregivers, as they develop language skills. Additionally, children in the toddler years can infer meaning based on another person's intonation. While social influences on language development include increasing a child's vocabulary and helping her to better understand meanings and contexts for the spoken word, not all outside environments are equal. The Canadian Language and Literacy Research Council notes that preschoolers from very verbal professional-type families hear almost three times as many words each week than those in lower socioeconomic households.

Developmental and Medical Issues

Some children’s language development doesn't follow a typical pattern. While many reasons are responsible for late language learning, or slow progression, a developmental or medical condition is often the culprit. According to American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, issues that might affect a child’s language development include attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism, cleft lip and palate, and traumatic brain injury. For example, an autistic child might not speak, have limited speech, have poor vocabulary development or difficulty when trying to express needs or wants verbally.


The American Academy of Pediatrics’ Healthy Children website notes that listening to others and practicing speech will help a young child master basics such as grammar early on. Although your little learner will certainly develop these skills without added tutoring, the educational environment -- whether it is at preschool or at home -- can enrich verbal growth and communication skills. For example, the experts at the Healthy Children website recommend reading to your child to boost language development. Likewise, preschool language lessons or circle time reading sessions can also help your child to get a grip on words and how to use them.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.

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