The relationship between a parent’s words and child executive function

In 1995, education researchers Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley published their groundbreaking work on the home language learning experiences of young children in the U.S. “Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experiences of Young American Children” pointed out an enormous disparity in the number of words addressed to children from high-income versus low-income families by age 3, known as the 30 million word gap.

A powerful predictor of children’s ability to learn and succeed in school is their vocabulary size when entering kindergarten, and this 30 million word gap contributes to differences in early vocabulary development. In addition, more recent research has suggested that parental language use could influence child executive function. Executive function skills like discipline, self-control, and planning are critical for future success and health.

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