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Role of Parents in the Language Development of Their Children

by Candace Webb, studioD

A study published online in 2008, by the Washington University School of Medicine: "The Importance of Parental Involvement in Language Acquisition," concluded that when parents are involved in their children's language acquisition and development that their children demonstrate higher language skills than those of children with less involved parents. The study further reported that children's language skills are dependent on social contexts, not simply learning by rote. This means the skills are developed via interactive activities such as talking with parents, siblings and friends, as opposed to simply being talked to and not being able to respond.

Language Explosion

According to the article, "Parent-Child Relations: Context, Research, and Application" by Phyllis Heath and posted on Education.com, most children have acquired 10,000 new words by the time they are 6 years old. The same article reports that children learning to talk, typically acquire 10 to 20 new words every day from the time they first begin speaking until they are 6. While children are first learning to put words together in a pattern or sentence, they automatically adopt the patterns of the verbs, subjects and objects that conform with the grammatical structure of their native tongue. Children also demonstrate an amazing ability to use proper tenses in their speech. For example, a preschool child may say, "Me and Joey goed to a restaurant." While there is not a word, "goed"" the child knew he needed to put "go" into past tense to explain that the trip to the restaurant had already taken place. He may have learned this by previously learning words such as played, cried, patted, which all have the ''ed'' to denote the simple past tense. These skills develop more quickly when parents are involved, and when they have interactive language experiences with their child.

Importance of Labeling

The article, “Parent-Child Relations: Context, Research, and Application” also states the variations in language ability among small children and preschoolers can be traced to how involved the parents are with their children's language development. Children consistently conversing with parents will learn words more quickly than children will learn without that involvement. In addition, parental labeling of objects does much to advance a child's language development. For example, when a parent points to a cow in the field and says, "Look at that cow eating grass!" The child will acquire the word cow into his vocabulary within a minute and the next time he sees one he will know it is called a cow.

Letting it Go

Heath also found that parents should not correct word pronunciations of their child's speech as this interferes with the flow of speech the child is learning to master. Instead, the parent needs to respond to the child mispronunciation as if it were pronounced correctly. In time, as the child hears parents and others speak, he will self-correct the words. For example, a child who says "hangurber" instead of "hamburger" will eventually hear the differences himself and correct it.

More Evidence

A study review published online for the British Journal of Educational Psychology, Volume 51, substantiated what previous studies discovered. Children's parents who were involved in language skills helped advance their children's abilities. In this study review, four groups of children were studied. Two groups had parent assistance programs, in which parents were taught how to effectively interact with their children for the purpose of language acquisition and development, and two groups did not. The study concluded that the two groups of children who had parental involvement demonstrated more advanced language skills than did the groups that did not.

About the Author

Candace Webb has been writing professionally since 1989. She has worked as a full-time journalist as well as contributed to metropolitan newspapers including the "Tennessean." She has also worked on staff as an associate editor at the "Nashville Parent" magazine. Webb holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism with a minor in business from San Jose State University.

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