What causes the word gap? Financial concerns may systematically suppress child-directed speech [post]

Monica E Ellwood-Lowe, Ruthe Foushee, Mahesh Srinivasan
2020 unpublished
Parents with fewer educational and economic resources (low socioeconomic-status, SES) tend to speak less to their children, with consequences for children's later life outcomes. Despite this well-established and highly popularized link, surprisingly little research addresses why the SES "word gap" exists. Moreover, existing research focuses on individual-level explanations with little attention to structural constraints with which parents must contend. In two pre-registered studies, we test
more » ... tudies, we test whether experiencing financial scarcity itself can suppress caregivers' speech to their children. Study 1 suggests that caregivers who are prompted to reflect on scarcity—particularly those who reflect on financial scarcity—speak to their 3-year-olds less than a control group in a subsequent play session. Study 2 finds that caregivers speak less to their children at the end of the month—when they are more likely to be experiencing financial hardship—than the rest of the month. Thus, above and beyond the individual characteristics of parents, structural constraints may affect how much parents speak to their children.
doi:10.31234/osf.io/byp4k fatcat:np4djfsvszaytlezki327luqtq