Early Vocabulary Growth: Relation to Language Input and Gender

Janellen Huttenlocher, Wendy Haight, Anthony Bryk, Michael Seltzer, Thomas Lyons

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1256 Scopus citations


This study examines the role of exposure to speech in children's early vocabulary growth. It is generally assumed that individual differences in vocabulary depend, in large part, on variations in learning capacity. However, variations in exposure have not been systematically explored. In this study we characterize vocabulary growth rates for each of 22 children by using data obtained at several time points from 14 to 26 months. We find a substantial relation between individual differences in vocabulary acquisition and variations in the amount that particular mothers speak to their children. The relation between amount of parent speech and vocabulary growth, we argue, reflects parent effects on the child, rather than child-ability effects on the parent or hereditary factors. We also find that gender is an important factor in rate of vocabulary growth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)236-248
Number of pages13
JournalDevelopmental psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1991


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