November 1, 2011 News

Communication and Culture: Research Trends

Grammatical Errors Predict Stuttering

Grammatical errors may be the greatest predictor of stuttering in Spanish-speaking children, according to a study in the American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology [doi:10.1044/1058-0360(2011/10-0019)]. Researchers explored the effects of utterance length, syntactic complexity, and grammatical correctness on stuttering in the spontaneous speech of young, monolingual Spanish-speaking children. Although utterance length and grammatical factors appear to affect stuttering in Spanish-speaking children, grammatical errors were the greatest predictor of stuttering. Results from the present study are consistent with earlier reports on English-speaking children.

Researchers examined spontaneous speech samples of 11 monolingual Spanish-speaking children, ages 35–70 months, who stuttered. The researchers compared mean number of syllables, total number of clauses, utterance complexity, and grammatical correctness in stuttered and fluent utterances. Stuttered utterances in Spanish tended to be longer, more often grammatically incorrect, and contain more clauses, including more subordinate and/or conjoined clauses. However, when controlling for the interrelatedness of syllable number and clause number and complexity, only utterance length and grammatical incorrectness were significant predictors of stuttering in the participants' spontaneous speech. Use of complex utterances did not appear to contribute to the prediction of stuttering when controlling for utterance length.

No Increased Risk of Language Problems for Bilingual Children

Young children learning two languages at once are not at higher risk for language impairment than those exposed to one language, according to a study in the American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology (doi:10.1044/1058-0360(2011/10-0020).

Language experience is directly related to language development in young children; therefore, are bilingual children—who may receive less input in each language they are learning and may have less practice using each language—at increased risk for language delay? Or does switching between two languages confer developmental advantages related to advanced inhibitory control skills that help bilingual children overcome the potential disadvantage of distributed language practice and knowledge?

Researchers screened the semantics and morphosyntax in both Spanish and English of 1,029 preschool and kindergarten-age children. The researchers used parent reports to document current exposure to and use of Spanish and English, as well as year of first exposure to English. They compared risk for language impairment for language group, year of first English exposure, age, and maternal education.

Although bilingual children's scores on each subtest were significantly lower compared with their functional monolingual peers, they were no more likely to fall in the at-risk range based on a combination of all four subtests. Maternal education and year of first English exposure were weakly associated with risk for language impairment, but not with language group. Bilingualism was not a significant risk factor for language impairment in this sample of children.

Language Outcomes of Children Adopted Internationally

Children adopted from abroad may be more likely to have poorer language outcomes than comparison children, according to a recent systematic and meta-analytic examination in the Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research [doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2010/10-0075]. The study examined whether early life experiences of children who are internationally adopted—and the language switch that occurs after adoption—hinder acquisition of language skills.

To reach these findings, the researchers conducted a meta-analysis of available studies on language acquisition of internationally adopted children. They found that internationally adopted children exhibited great variability in their language skills. They more often had poorer language outcomes than comparison children, but several moderating variables were found. Adoptees who are toddlers or preschoolers have great variability in language skills, but their language skills are not significantly different from those of the comparison groups. There was slightly less variability during the school-age and adult years with respect to language skills, but analysis showed a small to moderate, negative finding for the adoptees. Additionally, analysis indicated that poorer language outcomes were reported in studies that used norm-referenced instruments than in those that used survey instruments. Analysis also revealed a slight trend favoring better language outcomes for children who were adopted at age 1 year or younger.

The researchers conclude that no one set of characteristics describing language outcomes of internationally adopted children has emerged and call for future research on what may explain these findings.

Multicultural Resources

Links to ASHA practice documents, articles, brochures, references, products, and other resources related to communication and culture are available at ASHA's multicultural webpage.


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