Children from low-income families are generally at a high risk for literacy problems and school failure (Fiorentino &Howe, 2004). This is partly because they are more likely to enter school with smaller vocabularies than their higher-income peers (Duncan et al., 2007;Snow, Burns &Griffin, 1998). The socioeconomic gap in Kindergarten language skills has been partly attributed to differences in the talk parents address to their children (Hart &Risley, 1995). In particular, the focus has been primarily on mother-child interactions and less so on how father-child interactions can influence children's language development. The lack of emphasis on father's linguistic contributions has been partially attributed to the view that low-income fathers are uninvolved with their children or that their roles are limited to "rough-and-tumble play" (Shannon, Tamis-LeMonda, London, &Cabrera, 2002). Yet recent findings indicate that fathers spend time with their young children and are involved in caregiving activities, which have been linked to children's cognitive development in the early years (Cabrera, Shannon, &Tamis-LeMonda, 2007). However, with few notable exceptions showing that fathers contribute to children's language over and above mothers'contribution (Panscofar &Vernon-Feagans, 2006), research on the role that low-income, minority fathers play in their children's language development is limited. This proposed research addresses this gap by focusing on low- income fathers'communication with children to understand: 1) its frequency and function, 2) its association with background factors, and 3) its relation to child language development, controlling for maternal language measures. The proposed research is both cross-sectional and longitudinal in design and uses observational data of father-child interactions collected by the National Early Head Start Evaluation study (EHS). The purpose of this proposal is to transcribe and apply a coding scheme to assess father-child language interactions in a sample of 50 Latino and 50 African American fathers and their children to better understand the role of paternal communication in child language development. The data are drawn from the National EHS Evaluation study. Father-child dyads were videotaped interacting in the home at child age 24 months. Follow-up assessments were conducted with the children in Pre-K. We will transcribe and apply existing language coding schemes to the proposed videotapes of fathers. More specifically, this pilot study will give us a sense of whether the coding schemes we use (drawn from studies with mostly White, middle-class families) can be applied to minority, monolingual and bilingual, low-income populations. Further, by combining language data from these transcripts with the publicly available data from the national study we will examine predictors of father language and the role of father language in children's language and cognitive development. Taking on this challenge and focusing on minority children, especially Latino children, is timely given that in the next decade or so Latino children are predicted to make up the largest proportion of children in U.S. schools.

Public Health Relevance

Examining the linguistic influence that fathers have on their children's language development is relevant to public health because the findings can be used to promote children's wellbeing and success in school, especially among low-income minority children who are at risk for school failure.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Small Research Grants (R03)
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Pediatrics Subcommittee (CHHD)
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Griffin, James
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University of Maryland College Park
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College Park
United States
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