Habla conmigo, daddy! Fathers' language input in North American bilingual Latinx families

Infancy. 2022 Mar;27(2):301-323. doi: 10.1111/infa.12450. Epub 2022 Jan 19.


This study examines the language environments of bilingually raised Latinx infants (n = 37) in mother-father families of diverse socioeconomic backgrounds, with a focus on paternal parentese, a speaking style distinguished by higher pitch, slower tempo, and exaggerated intonation. Two daylong audio recordings were collected on weekends, when both parents were at home. Paternal, maternal, and infant speech variables were quantified through automatic and manual analyses. Most infants experienced Spanish and English within child-directed speech, and language mixing was common in mothers and fathers. Adjusting for demographic variables, infants heard 50.4% less talk from men compared to women, and 43.4% less parentese from fathers compared to mothers. However, when controlling for overall speech amount, the rate of parentese use did not differ between mothers and fathers, demonstrating that, contrary to the stereotype, fathers in Latinx families adjust their speech in verbal interactions with their infants. An asymmetry emerged, where paternal parentese was associated with paternal knowledge of language development but not with paternal involvement in childcare responsibilities; the opposite was true for paternal speech amount. Controlling for maternal contributions, paternal parentese was predictive of concurrent parent-infant turn-taking and infant language vocalizations, demonstrating its important role in infant language development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Fathers
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Language Development*
  • Language*
  • Male
  • Mothers
  • North America