UNC Study: Fathers’ Impact on Child Language

By Wilson Borntrager Posted June 14, 2014 at 11:15 am

A recent UNC study has found that fathers may have a greater impact on the development of a child’s language than mothers.

Due to the novelty of fathers’ conversations with their children, what a child gathers from their dad’s language becomes something that will stand out in developing language. Fathers also tend to use vocabulary that relies on words that are not within the everyday language of the child, which in turn boosts their own vocabulary.

William C. Friday Distinguished Professor in the School of Education at UNC, Dr. Lynne Vernon-Feagans, researched the matter in order to determine what kind of impact fathers have on their children, since most often mothers are the subject of focus in analyzing child development. She says that she and her colleagues were surprised by their results.

“It was kind of surprising to us that we found that father’s language was more important in predicting children’s early language development than mother’s language,” says Dr. Vernon-Feagan.

She says that there are plenty of studies out there that talk about a child’s relationship with their mothers in terms of a child’s development, but not nearly enough about fathers.

“I think we have to rethink, especially in developmental psychology, that fathers may be very important to the development of their children,” says Dr. Vernon-Feagan, “and this is one example where it seems like it is really important for children’s language development.”

From this study, she has concluded that fathers may contribute much more to a child’s development than originally thought, even more so than with their language development.

“I think we have overlooked the importance of fathers,” says Dr. Vernon-Feagan, “and that they are contributing in a unique way to their children’s development.”

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