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How to properly develop a child’s speech skills

It is widely believed among young parents that for the development of the child’s speech, you need to talk with him as much as possible. You can read such thoughts in books on child development or on the Internet, hear from pediatricians, etc.

If you are seriously interested in this issue, you may also have heard that children living in poor families hear much less words from their parents than children from wealthy families. This slows down their speech development.

From this we can conclude that parents from low-income families are to blame for the fact that their children are not sufficiently developing their speech skills. But there is another side to this issue: how much should one talk with the child so that his speech develops normally?

The idea that children from low-income families hear fewer words from their parents and because of this are inferior to their peers in speech development was first expressed by American psychologists Betty Hart and Todd Risley. This idea was propagated by psychologists and became an argument in favor of the fact that parents should talk with children from an early age.

Psychologists have found that in American schools children from low-income families demonstrate relatively low academic performance, and the efforts of teachers are not enough to cope with this. Scientists asked the question: what affects the development of the child’s speech outside the school, and conducted a study on this topic. 42 families took part in it (during the study they were divided into 3 groups: affluent, middle-income families and low-income). Children were observed from the age of 9 months to 3 years. Scientists visited the studied families daily and recorded all forms of interactions between parents and children.

The study found that children in wealthy families heard more words from their parents every day than in other families (in low-income families this figure was the lowest). Over time, the difference between the groups increased, and by the time children reached the age of three, children from wealthy families heard 30 million more words from their parents than their peers from low-income families.

However, a logical question arises: do such home conditions really affect children’s performance at school? Is it important that the child hear a lot of words from the parents in the first months of life? The scientists who conducted the study themselves did not establish a direct relationship and considered communication with the child in a wider context. They argued that for good academic performance, manifestations of love towards children and quality interactions are important, and communication is one of their forms.

Modern psychologists criticize the results of the Betty Hart and Todd Risley experiment, arguing that the study did not take into account the number of families that could be considered objective (in particular, low-income families made up the smallest group). In addition, the study focused on the number of words that children hear, but not enough analysis of what these words were. Scientists limited themselves to analyzing which parts of speech parents used more often, and whether their remarks were supportive or, conversely, critical.

Modern such studies use a deeper analysis of parents’ speech using complex statistical methods and modeling. This allows you to more accurately predict the influence of parental speech on the further development of the child.

So, scientists from Harvard University recently conducted a study to determine the quality of speech of parents that affect the speech development of the child. The word “quality” here did not mean that some words were useful to the child, and others harmful, but that the parents could use rare words or those that the children could not yet relate to their experience (for example, when talking about imaginary situations or possible future).

The study involved 50 families. As a result, scientists found a relationship between the parents ’speech that children heard from an early age and the vocabulary they had at a later age.

Scientists have found that more educated parents spoke more with their children and used more rare and abstract words than other parents. However, this behavior of the parents was not constant. When the child was growing up, parents could talk less with him, however, the quality of speech was important. This led to the fact that children from such families subsequently had a large vocabulary compared to their peers.

This study shows that for the speech development of children under three years old, it is important that parents talk a lot with them. At an older age, the quality of the parents ’speech and the variety of words that they use become more important. This affects the development of the vocabulary of the child, and the results become noticeable already in the elementary grades of the school.

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