A recent study found in Psychological Science explains that the conversation between a parent or caregiver and a child provokes “the language centers in a child’s brain;” therefore, how we speak to children effects “the growth of their neural processing capacities.”
According to the article, previously a 1995 study revealed a dramatic disparity between low-income and high-income children, mainly that high-income children, on average, hear more vocabulary from the age of 7 months to 3 years than their lower-income counterpart; however, this latest study has determined that it is not the quantity of words that effects a child’s neural processing capabilities, but rather “the number of conversational turns.”
Researcher Rachel R. Romeo, a Harvard and MIT Ph.D. student, along with her coauthors, used an audio recording device called Language Environment Analysis and recorded 36 4-6 year olds over two days. The researchers then analyzed the accumulated data (the number of words spoken by the child, the number of words spoke to the child, the number of conversational turns) along with brain scans of the children and determined that “differences in the number of conversational turns accounted for differences in brain physiology, as well as for differences in language skills including vocabulary, grammar, and verbal reasoning.”
Consequently, the research shows that a child’s language skills are contingent on meaningful conversations with a parent or caregiver and not, as previous research thought, on talking to a child. Moreover, building on the 1995 study, research shows that socioeconomic disparities do not influence biological brain development; all parents and caregivers, when engaging in conversational interplay with a child, can foster brain development.
What does this mean for TWIN-CS? It’s important to remain aware of ongoing developments in our field, especially studies that involve younger students. As teachers, we are constantly learning from our students; as members of TWIN-CS, we hope to include the best educational strategies that will provide healthier and more substantial learning environments for our students. Continue to follow the blog for more breaking research!
-Melissa Hoppie, Graduate Research Assistant