Mothers' speech to young children: variation in context

Dev Med Child Neurol. 1977 Oct;19(5):629-38. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8749.1977.tb07996.x.


Recent research has demonstrated the importance of particular features of mothers' speech in influencing the rate of language acquisition in very young children. In the present study of 22 mother-child pairs, the occurrence of these features was examined in samples of mothers' speech to children (aged 18 to 29 months), obtained in unstructured observations in the homes. The features facilitating language acquisition were found to be more frequent in the context of joint attention to pictures or books; speech in other contexts showed social-class differences, with a higher frequency of 'facilitating' features in the speech of middle-class mothers. There was also a tendency for the relative frequency of these features to be positively associated with the children's linguistic ability.

MeSH terms

  • Attention
  • Books, Illustrated
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Language Development*
  • Male
  • Mother-Child Relations*
  • Social Class
  • Speech
  • Verbal Behavior*
  • Verbal Learning