Directive Language Input to Children Born Preterm and Full Term
Imgrund, Caitlin McCormick
University of Kansas
Intercampus Program in Communicative Disorders
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The mothers of children born preterm face many challenges in the formation of high-quality dyadic interactions with their children. Because children born preterm are at risk for many neurodevelopmental delays, it is important to study the language input directed to these children and its contribution to their language development. One type of language input commonly used by mothers of young children is directive language input. The purpose of this study was to examine different types of directives, supportive and intrusive, in the language input of mothers of preterm children compared to mothers of full term children. The relationship between the maternal use of intrusive and supportive directives and language outcomes in their children also was examined. Ten mother-child dyads (five preterm and five full term) participated in this study. The children ranged in age between 9-15 months. Mothers of full term children were matched to the preterm sample controlling for child's gender, child's age, and maternal education. Each mother and child dyad participated in a play session using a standard set of toys. The play session was audio- and videotaped. The difference between production of intrusive and supportive directives by mothers of preterm children and mothers of full term children was not statistically significant. However, practical significance, as determined by moderate effect sizes, were evident, with mothers of children born preterm using more intrusive directives than mothers of children born full term. Additionally, it was found that the maternal use of intrusive directives had a strong negative relationship with child language outcomes for the children in the preterm group. The maternal use of intrusive directives may be detrimental to the language acquisition process because they require the child to devote cognitive resources away from the task of language learning and result in less engagement of the child. The clinical implications of the findings are discussed.
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