Effects of Maternal Input on Language in the Absence of Genetic Confounds: Vocabulary Development in Internationally Adopted Children


Parents provide children with both genes (nature) and linguistic input (nurture). A growing body of research demonstrates that individual differences in children’s language are correlated with differences in parental speech. Although this suggests a causal link between parental input and the pace of language development, these correlations could reflect effects of shared genes on language, rather than a causal link between input and outcome. We explored effects of maternal input on English vocabulary development in internationally-adopted (IA) children—a population with no genetic confound. IA preschoolers demonstrated some of the same correlations with input as in previous studies; specifically, measures of input quality were significantly correlated with vocabulary. However, IA infants did not demonstrate this pattern. Differences between the age groups may be related to the pace of acquisition; more rapid vocabulary development in the preschoolers suggests that access to, and children’s ability to make use of input, may be a limiting factor for the infants.

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