Book review. Meaningful differences in everyday experience of young American children. Betty Hart, Todd Risley
Journal of Pediatric Psychology
thors offer plentiful specific examples of how concepts play out in "real life" among families in very different circumstances. The discussion that takes place in the next three chapters expands on findings generated from years of monthly observations with individual families. Data ranged from parenting characteristics, quality of language, and experience with language and interaction. By chapter 7, Meaningful Differences arrives at the culmination of the accomplishments of the children
... he children participants at three years and beyond. Hart and Risley describe a group of children who are a joy to observe as they function competently, but with some marked differences. This discussion leads the reader to wonder how variables such as language experience and language diversity affect young children in their school years. Fortunately for their readers, Hart and Risley, in conjunction with Dale Walker, PhD (University of Kansas), present a study using a subset of their original child participants who had just turned nine years old. These researchers were able to examine the relationships among early environmental factors such as child language and parenting experiences at age three, and cognitive functioning and performance at age nine. Appropriately, Meaningful Differences concludes with a statement about the importance of the first three years of life. Hart and Risley emphasize the issue of cumulative experiences, how they build over the first three years, and how repeated experiences might have positive or negative impacts on children. Fortunately, Meaningful Differences does not leave readers hanging with an idyllic statement about the profound nature of learning and young children. Hart and Risley's last words include a plan for intervention for children at risk who may not receive the quantity or the quality of early parenting and language experience so necessary for later development. Their plan is interesting in that it estimates not only the necessary content of intervention but also the time needed for proper implementation. The authors present research as complex and detailed as the intervention and resources needed to implement change. Their diligence is a testament to a desire to find accurate explanations for later performance differences as they relate to the first three years of life, a time so critical to child development.