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Communicative functions of young children (Kasambira Fannin et al., 2018)

posted on 22.02.2018 by Danai Kasambira Fannin, Oscar A. Barbarin, Elizabeth R. Crais
Purpose: This study explores whether communicative function (CF: reasons for communicating) use differs by socioeconomic status (SES), race/ethnicity, or gender among preschoolers and their mothers.
Method: Mother–preschooler dyads (N = 95) from the National Center for Early Development and Learning’s (2005) study of family and social environments were observed during 1 structured learning and free-play interaction. CFs were coded by trained independent raters.
Results: Children used all CFs at similar rates, but those from low SES homes produced fewer utterances and less reasoning, whereas boys used less self-maintaining and more predicting. African American mothers produced more directing and less responding than European American and Latino American mothers, and Latino American mothers produced more utterances than European American mothers. Mothers from low SES homes did more directing and less responding.
Conclusions: Mothers exhibited more sociocultural differences in CFs than children; this suggests that maternal demographic characteristics may influence CF production more than child demographics at school entry. Children from low SES homes talking less and boys producing less self-maintaining coincided with patterns previously detected in pragmatic literature. Overall, preschoolers from racial/ethnic minority and low SES homes were not less deft with CF usage, which may inform how their pragmatic skills are described.

Supplemental Material S1. Descriptives of proportion of child communicative functions by race/ethnicity, poverty, and gender.

Supplemental Material S2. Descriptives of proportion of mother communicative functions by race/ethnicity and poverty.

Kasambira Fannin, D., Barbarin, O. A., & Crais, E. R. (2018). Communicative function use of preschoolers and mothers from differing racial and socioeconomic groups. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1044/2017_LSHSS-17-0004


This study was partially funded by the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Caroline H. and Thomas S. Royster Five-Year Fellowship, awarded to Danai Kasambira Fannin. The NCEDL Multi-State Study of Pre-Kindergarten and Familial and Social Environments supplement were supported by the Foundation for Child Development, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, McCormick Tribune Foundation, and National Educational Research and Development Centers Program Grant R307A960004, as administered by the Institute of Education Sciences of the U.S. Department of Education.