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Publication - Professor Tim Peters

    Association of proximal elements of social disadvantage with children's language development at 2 years

    an analysis of data from the Children in Focus (CiF) sample from the ALSPAC birth cohort

    Citation

    Law, J, Clegg, J, Rush, R, Roulstone, S & Peters, TJ, 2019, ‘Association of proximal elements of social disadvantage with children's language development at 2 years: an analysis of data from the Children in Focus (CiF) sample from the ALSPAC birth cohort’. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders, vol 54., pp. 362-376

    Abstract

    Background
    An association between social disadvantage and early language development is commonly reported in the literature, but less attention has been paid to the way that different aspects of social disadvantage affect both expressive and receptive language in the first two years of life.

    Aim
    This study examines the contributions of gender, parental report of early language skills, and proximal social variables (the amount of stimulation in the home, resources available to the child and the attitudes/emotional status of the primary carer and the support available to him/her) controlling for distal social variables (family income and maternal education) to children’s expressive and receptive language development at two years in a community ascertained population cohort.

    Methods and Procedures
    Data from 1,314 children in the Children in Focus (CiF) sample from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) were analysed. Multivariable regression models identified the contribution of proximal (what parents do with their children) measures of social disadvantage adjusting for more distal (e.g., family income and material wealth) measures as well as early language development at 15 months to the development of verbal comprehension, expressive vocabulary and expressive grammar (word combinations) at 2 years of age.

    Outcome and Results
    In the final multivariable models gender, earlier language and proximal social factors, covarying for distal factors predicted 36% of the variance for expressive vocabulary, 22% for receptive language and 27% for word combinations at two years. Language development at 15 months remained a significant predictor of outcomes at 24 months. Environmental factors were associated with both expressive scales but the picture was rather more mixed for receptive language suggesting that there may be different mechanisms underlying the different processes.

    Conclusions and Implications
    This study supports the argument that social advantage makes a strong contribution to children’s language development in the early years. The results suggest that what parents/carers do with their children is critical even when structural aspects of social disadvantage such as family income and housing have been taken into consideration although this relationship varies for different aspects of language. This has the potential to inform the targeting of public health interventions focusing on early language and preliteracy skills on the one hand and home learning environments on the other and, potentially, the two in combination.

    Full details in the University publications repository