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A Naturalistic Home Observational Approach to Children's Language, Cognition, and Behavior

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Katrina d'Apice, Rachel Marie Latham, Sophie von Stumm

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1414-1427
Number of pages14
JournalDevelopmental Psychology
Issue number7
Accepted/In press6 Mar 2019
Published1 Jul 2019


King's Authors


Although early life experiences of language and parenting are critical for children’s development, large home observation studies of both domains are scarce in the psychological literature, presumably because of their considerable costs to the participants and researchers. Overcoming some of these difficulties, we used here digital audio-recorders to unobtrusively observe 107 preschoolers, who were aged 2.03 to 3.99 years (M = 2.77, SD = 0.55), and their families over 3 days (M = 15.06 hours per day, SD = 1.87). The recording software estimated the total number of words that a child heard over the course of a day. In addition, we transcribed six 5-minute excerpts per family (i.e. 30 minutes overall) to extract estimates of children's and parents' lexical
diversity, positive and critical parenting, and children's internalizing and externalizing behaviors. We found that home language input (i.e. number of words and lexical diversity) was positively associated with children’s cognitive ability and lexical diversity but not with their behaviors. In addition, we observed that home language input varied as much within as between families across days (intra-class correlation = .48). By comparison, parenting predicted children’s behavioral outcomes but was not related to their cognitive or lexical ability. Overall our findings suggest that home language input affects child development in cognition and language, while parenting informs their behavioral development. Furthermore, we demonstrated that digital audio-recordings
are useful tools for home observation studies that seek to disentangle the complex relationships between early life home environments and child development.

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