The influence of low-income mothers' and fathers' math talk on their children's early math development Children living in poverty are at risk for a host of negative outcomes, including difficulties in school and low academic performance related to delays in cognitive development, including math (Duncan et al., 2007). The quality of the home environment is strongly linked to the socioeconomic status (SES) of the family, where children from higher SES backgrounds exhibit better outcomes than children from lower SES backgrounds (Klibanoff, et al., 2006). To date, researchers have focused primarily on the communicative environments of middle class families, in particular mothers, and mostly on language skills. Consequently, we know less about the communicative contributions of fathers to their children's cognitive development, in particular low-income families (; Baker, 2013; Pruden et al., 2011). We know of no studies connecting parenting and math skills for low-income fathers and mothers and thus we know little about the potentially unique linguistic features of fathers' and mothers' communication that might promote children's math development, and no documentation of the heterogeneity in low-income families. Given that many, but not all, low-income families provide supportive environments for their children, we focus on the variability in this group rather than comparing them to white, middle-class families. Understanding the variability within this group, as well as mechanisms underlying such effects, can lead to interventions that augment protective factors already existing at home and reduce risk in low-income children at school entry. Specifically, we ask: (1) How do low-income fathers and mothers use math talk with their toddlers? (2) Do fathers' and mothers' math talk vary by education and psychological factors? (3) How do fathers' and mothers' math talk at 24 moths relate to children's own math skills concurrently and longitudinally, controlling for background factors, at pre-kindergarten? The purpose of this proposal is in-depth examination of the variation in ?math talk? in low-income father-child and mother-child dyadic interactions. To this end, we propose to transcribe and apply a coding scheme to assess father-child and mother-child language interactions in a sample of 290 low-income mothers and fathers and their children to better understand the role of parental communication, in particular math talk, in early child math development. The data are drawn from the National EHS Evaluation study. Father- and mother-child dyads were videotaped interacting in the home at child age 24 months. Follow-up assessments were conducted with the children in Pre-K. This proposal directly addresses the new NICHD strategic goal to conduct research that addresses School Readiness Skills in Economically and Socially Disadvantaged Children. In particular, this research will support longitudinal and early intervention research to identify the mechanisms associated with long-term deficits in academic and school functioning of disadvantaged children to better hone interventions that result in more successful and sustained positive outcomes.

Public Health Relevance

By school entry, children growing up in economic disadvantage display striking individual differences in math skills that have long-lasting effects and this gap in math skills has been partly attributed to differences in the verbal input parents provide to their children. However, most research has been conducted with middle-class mothers and little is known about how maternal input and even less of how paternal input influence children's math skill development among low-income families. The present study extends this line of inquiry to development of math concepts by proposing to code both the quality and quantity of math input in mother-child and father-child naturalistic interactions and examine their associations with children's emerging math skills.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Small Research Grants (R03)
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National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Initial Review Group (CHHD)
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Mann Koepke, Kathy M
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University of Maryland College Park
Other Health Professions
Schools of Education
College Park
United States
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