Parent-to-child baby talk is more crucial than most of us think. We are not referring to ooh-ing and aww-ing, but conversational parent-child communication. According to “The Power of Talking to Your Baby” by Tina Rosenberg, significant developmental differences can be traced to the amount of language to which a baby is exposed. As in many early childhood education trends, economic status has become a predictor for language exposure.
One study in Providence, Rhode Island, researched how much parents from different socioeconomic backgrounds talked to their babies. The tests, which consisted of monthly hour-long parent-child interactions, revealed that poor children heard around 600 words per hour, while middle-class children heard 1,200, and wealthy children heard 2,100. These results later correlated with the children’s IQ tests and how well they performed in school.
In only one year, a poor child can fall behind middle-class and wealthy children in his or her ability to talk and learn.
It is unclear why wealthier parents talk to their children more than lower income parents, but the findings should inspire parents from all socioeconomic backgrounds to make an effort to talk to their children more often.
Other studies suggest that awareness of the rich-poor word count disparity is a key to improving the situation. The Orfalea Foundation encourages parents, caregivers, and teachers to strive for a high standard of communication with children, and to expect the same from child care and education centers. Children in high quality care environments show more advanced language skills, exhibit fewer behavior problems, perform better in school, and demonstrate better social skills.