Children from low–socioeconomic status (SES) families, on average, arrive at school with smaller vocabularies than children from high-SES families. In an effort to identify precursors to, and possible remedies for, this inequality, we videotaped 50 children from families with a range of different SES interacting with parents at 14 months and assessed their vocabulary skills at 54 months. We found that children from high-SES families frequently used gesture to communicate at 14 months, a relation that was explained by parent gesture use (with speech controlled). In turn, the fact that children from high-SES families have large vocabularies at 54 months was explained by children's gesture use at 14 months. Thus, differences in early gesture help to explain the disparities in vocabulary that children bring with them to school.
Friday, February 27, 2009
Gesture and language acquisition
Gestures precede speech development and, after speech development, continue to enrich the communication process. Comparing how young children and their parents used gesture in their communications with analyses of socioeconomic status and of the child's vocabulary at age 54 months, Rowe and Goldin-Meadow find disparities in gesture use that precede vocabulary disparities (Children from lower socioeconomic brackets tend to have smaller vocabularies than children from higher socioeconomic brackets.) Their abstract: