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Short Description: This study investigated predictors of growth in toddlers' vocabulary production between the ages of 1 and 3 years by analyzing mother – child communication in 108 low-income families.

Content Inside: Child Development, July/August 2005, Volume 76, Number 4, Pages 763 782 Maternal Correlates of Growth in Toddler Vocabulary Production in Low-Income Families Barbara Alexander Pan Harvard Graduate School of Education Meredith L. Rowe University of Chicago Judith D. Singer and Catherine E. Snow Harvard Graduate School of Education This study investigated predictors of growth in toddlers' vocabulary production between the ages of 1 and 3 years by analyzing mother child communication in 108 low-income families. Individual growth modeling was used to describe patterns of growth in children's observed vocabulary production and predictors of initial status and between-person change. Results indicate large variation in growth across children. Observed variation was positively related to diversity of maternal lexical input and maternal language and literacy skills, and negatively related to maternal depression. Maternal talkativeness was not related to growth in children's vocabulary production in this sample. Implications of the examination of longitudinal data from this relatively large sample of low-income families are discussed. Parental reports on children's productive vocabularies during infancy and toddlerhood document large individual variation in vocabulary size across early development (Fenson et al., 1994). Based on a cross-sectional parental report study of more than 1,800 middle-class infants and toddlers, Fenson et al. (1994) found that 12-month-olds at the median produced fewer than 10 different words, whereas children of the same age at the 90th percentile produced 20 to 40 words. By 30 months, children at the median reportedly produced more than 500 words, children at the 10th percentile produced 250 to 350 words, and children at the 90th percentile produced about The findings reported here are based on research conducted as part of the national Early Head Start Research and Evaluation Project funded by the Administration on Children, Youth and Families (ACYF), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services through Grant 90YF0009 to Harvard University Graduate School of Education. The research was conducted in collaboration with Early Education Services in Brattleboro, Vermont. The first and fourth authors are members of the Early Head Start Research Consortium. The consortium consists of representatives from 17 programs participating in the evaluation, 15 local research teams, the evaluation contractors, and ACYF. The content of this publication does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Health and Human Services. The analyses and writing of this paper was supported by an AERA/OERI dissertation grant to the second author. The authors wish to express their gratitude to their program partner and to the participating families. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Barbara Alexander Pan, Larsen Hall, Harvard Graduate School of Education, Cambridge, MA 02138. Electronic mail may be sent to barbara_pan@harvard.edu. 650 words. Such variation could reflect differences in the age at onset of vocabulary acquisition or differences in the rate of growth. Goldfield and Reznick (1990), also using parental report, found that for most of the 18 middle-class children they studied, growth started with a period of slow word accumulation, followed by a prolonged period of accelerated word learning, beginning somewhere between 14 and 22 months. Goldfield and Reznick's study is notable because it was a longitudinal study that charted children's individual growth trajectories, albeit for only a small number of children. Most of the limited longitudinal work on early vocabulary has examined growth in measures designed to estimate total vocabulary size. For example, Huttenlocher, Haight, Bryk, Seltzer, and Lyons (1991) used children's cumulative vocabulary production across several observations as an index of vocabulary size. Although groundbreaking in applying individual growth modeling to the study of infant and toddler vocabulary growth, Huttenlocher et al.'s study was also limited to a small sample (22 middle-class toddlers). Furthermore, the cumulation assumption that words young children produce at one time point are thereafter always a part of their productive lexicon has been questioned (Rescorla, 1980). We do not yet know whether children's actual observed word production yields results similar to those documented for cumulative vocabulary size. To our knowledge, there have been no published r 2005 by the Society for Research in Child Development, Inc. All rights reserved. 0009-3920/2005/7604-0001


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