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OLAP - Oral Language Development and its Predictors in Language-Minority Children from Low Income Families

Language-minority children are at increased risk for reading difficulties and school failure. They show lower levels of oral language skills at school entry but little is known about the trajectories and predictors of early language developmental in these children. Research states that children’s reading ability and general success in school are predicted by their oral language skills at kindergarten entry. Family socioeconomic status and the home environment, including language input as well as stimulation and support, are considered to be the groundwork for children’s language development. However, few studies have explored these risk factors and their interactions in language-minority children from 34 months to the age of school entry. This study aims to fill this gap. The purpose is to understand how multiple indicators of the home environment in the first years of life, in a sample of language-minority children from low income homes, are related to children’s oral language skills in their first and second languages at 34, 44 and 54 months. Young children’s language and literacy exposure in the early years may be one critical experience that is related to poorer language, beyond the contribution of socioeconomic status and other demographic variables.The present study will longitudinally follow a sample of 70 children from low income Portuguese-speaking language-minority homes in Luxembourg and their language abilities will be tracked over three time points. The home environment will be explored through questionnaires, interviews, caregiver assessments and direct observations of caregiver-child interactions. We aim to address the specific research questions:

  • How much variation is there in language abilities, child-directed speech and home literacy environment in low income language minority homes?
  • Does child-directed speech and the home literacy environment predict child oral language skills in this population of low income language minority children?
  • Which aspects of children’s language experience contribute most to children’s language skill across early development?
  • Is the relationship between SES and language development mediated by environmental factors?

Results will have important theoretical and practical implications. A better understanding of the language development of language-minority children will help us to intervene within this group in a more informed and efficient way in order to help language-minority children achieve their maximum potential.

  • Duration: 2018-2020
  • Funding: Luxembourg National Research Fund