Stories for Success: Culturally-Driven Maternal Influences on Children’s Language Development
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Maternal speech holds a pivotal role in infant language development. Mothers differ cross-culturally in terms of responding to infant inquiries for information, providing word labels, and incorporating emotional talk into conversations with infants (Tamis-Lemonda et al., 1992). Thus, understanding how mothers communicate with their infants and also how race, socioeconomic status, and education level of the mother impact this process is essential. In the current study, mother-infant dyads (N = 50) participated in an interactive picture-book task. Our sample consisted of 26 self-identified Black mothers and 24 self-identified White mothers. Infants were aged 10, 14, 18, or 22 months. The observational session was recorded, transcribed, and coded to analyze maternal total word count, discrete word count, and parts of speech. Results indicated that Black sons received significantly less total words (p < .01), discrete words (p < .04), verbs (p < .02), and pronouns and proper nouns (p < .02) than Black daughters and White sons. Additionally, no measure of maternal speech was able to predict the receptive vocabulary of Black or White infants. However, while no measure was able to predict the productive vocabulary of Black infants, adjectives (p < .001), total words (p =.03), and total positive emotion words (p = .03) spoken by a White mother were able to predict the productive vocabulary of White infants. This study has important implications for the early vocabulary and literacy gap between Black and White children in the United States, as well as improving our understanding of word learning across both cultures.
DepartmentPsychology and Neuroscience
CitationSrivastava, Radhika (2019). Stories for Success: Culturally-Driven Maternal Influences on Children’s Language Development. Honors thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/19089.
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Rights for Collection: Undergraduate Honors Theses and Student papers