The Implications of Parent-child Connectedness for Child Language Development

Open Access
Ross, Corynne Elizabeth
Area of Honors:
Interdisciplinary in Communication Arts and Sciences and Psychology
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Lori Ann Bedell, Honors Advisor
  • Pamela Marie Cole, Thesis Supervisor
  • Jeff M Love, Honors Advisor
  • connectedness
  • language
  • development
  • language development
  • child
  • parent
  • conversation
  • parent-child
Language skills are important for children for many reasons. Research has shown that the better young children’s language abilities are the better their academic, social, and emotional developmental outcomes (Ensor & Hughes, 2008; Fujiki, Brinton & Clarke, 2002; McCabe & Meller, 2004; Walker, Greenwood, Hart, & Carta, 2008). The early language learning environment is especially important in contributing to children’s early language development; parental language input, for example, is particularly influential in children’s early language learning environment (Hart & Risley, 2003; Hoff, 2006; NICHD Early Child Care Network, 2000). The aim of this thesis is to examine the potential contribution of parent-child conversation, i.e. connectedness, as a feature of the early language learning environment, to young children’s language ability. Connectedness is defined as “the frequency with which each speaker’s utterances are semantically related to another speaker’s prior utterance” (Ensor & Hughes, 2008). Connectedness differs from standard conceptualizations of language input in that it examines not only the amount of exposure to language but more importantly the quality of young children’s verbal interactions with their parents. The objective of this thesis project is to determine the degree to which parent-child connectedness predicts young children’s subsequent level of language ability as measured by (a) natural speech samples and (b) standardized language performance. Connectedness assessed in parent-child interactions at child age 30 months was predicted to account for different aspects of children’s language skill at age 36 months. Results provide partial support for the influence of connectedness, which contributed to some, but not all, aspects of children’s language abilities at age 36 months.