The role of joint engagement in the development of language in a community-derived sample of slow-to-talk children

J Child Lang. 2018 Nov;45(6):1275-1293. doi: 10.1017/S030500091800017X. Epub 2018 Jun 21.


We explored whether supported (SJE) or coordinated joint engagement (CJE) between mothers recruited from the community and their 24-month-old children who were slow-to-talk at 18 months old were associated with child language scores at ages 24, 36, and 48 months (n = 197). We further explored whether SJE or CJE modified the concurrent positive associations between maternal responsive behaviours and language scores. Previous research has shown that SJE, maternal expansions, imitations, and responsive questions were associated with better language scores. Our main finding was that SJE but not CJE was consistently positively associated with 24- and 36-month-old expressive and receptive language scores, but not with 48-month-old language scores. SJE modified how expansions and imitations, but not responsive questions, were associated with language scores; the associations were evident in all but the highest levels of SJE. Further research is necessary to test these findings in other samples before clinical recommendations can be made.

Keywords: attention; joint engagement; mother–child interaction; responsivity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child Language
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Language
  • Language Development Disorders*
  • Language Development*
  • Male
  • Maternal Behavior*
  • Mother-Child Relations*
  • Mothers