Exploring early childhood language environments: A comparison of language use, exposure, and interactions in the home and childcare settings

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Purpose: This study was conducted in a large Midwestern metropolitan area to examine the language environments at home and in center-based childcare for young children who are living in poverty. We compared child language use and exposure in the home and childcare settings using extended observations with automated Language Environment Analysis to gain a deeper understanding of the environmental factors that may affect change in language outcomes for young children. Method: Thirty-eight children, along with parents (n = 38) and childcare providers (n = 14) across five childcare centers, participated in this study. Each child completed a standardized language assessment and two daylong recordings with Language Environment Analysis to determine the number of adult words, conversational turns, and child vocalizations that occurred in each setting. Data were analyzed at 5-min intervals across each recording. Results: Comparisons between home recordings in this sample and a comparison group showed reliably higher rates of adult words and conversational turns inthehomesetting.Linearmixed-effects regression models showed significant differences in the child language environments, with the home setting providing higher levels of language input and use. These effects were still meaningful after accounting for the time of day, participant demographic characteristics, and child language ability. Conclusions: Practical implications for supporting child language development across settings are discussed, and suggestions for further research are provided.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)706-719
Number of pages14
JournalLanguage, speech, and hearing services in schools
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported in part by the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities and the Bush Foundation via Think Small and Generation Next initiatives. The authors would like to acknowledge the following students and colleagues for their willingness to lend materials, time, and talent to this project: Lauren Martin, Grant Parsons, Megan Wang, Jennifer Engman, Kelly Gundert, Kimberly Schlesser, Jose Palma, Erin Lease, Hannah Jacobs, Madelyn Bingham, and Wei Song. We also thank Clare Sanford and Chad Dunkley for the assistance in recruiting childcare centers and families, as well as Jill Gilkerson and Kim Coulter at the LENA Foundation for a review of earlier versions of this article. Most importantly, we would like to thank the childcare staff and families who participated in the study.

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

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