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Caregiver–child interactions in Down syndrome (Elmquist et al., 2024)

online resource
posted on 2024-04-15, 14:12 authored by Marianne Elmquist, Andrea Ford, Emily Lorang, Audra Sterling

Purpose: Dyadic caregiver–child interactions are commonly used to examine children’s language learning environments. However, children frequently interact with multiple caregivers and/or siblings if they come from homes with multiple caregivers and siblings. Thus, we examined if and how caregiver opportunities to respond (OTRs) varied when sampled across three interaction configurations.

Method: Twelve children with Down syndrome (Mage = 40.82 months) and their biological parents participated in the current study. We collected separate mother–child and father–child dyadic interactions and one family choice interaction (i.e., both caregivers present and occasionally siblings) in families’ homes. We analyzed if differences in the caregiver’s OTR frequency and type—explicit and implicit—existed among dyadic and family choice configurations.

Results: We found that, during family choice interactions, children were exposed to fewer OTRs when combining the total number of father and mother OTRs compared to dyadic caregiver–child interactions. This effect was large for explicit OTRs (mother-dyadic vs. combined family choice: g = −1.99, confidence interval [CI] [−3.00, −1.00]; father-dyadic vs. combined family choice: g = −0.84, CI [−1.84, −0.11]). For implicit OTRs, effects were small for mother-dyadic versus combined family choice (g = −0.34, CI [−1.17, 0.48]) and negligible when comparing father-dyadic with combined family choice (g = −0.08, CI [−0.90, 0.73]).

Conclusion: Our preliminary findings highlight the need for a more nuanced understanding of children’s language learning environments to better understand how caregivers support their children’s language development.

Supplemental Material S1. Description of toys available during dyadic caregiver–child interactions.

Supplemental Material S2. Opportunities to respond coding manual.

Elmquist, M., Ford, A. L. B., Lorang, E., & Sterling, A. (2024). Opportunities to respond during dyadic caregiver–child and naturalistic family interactions among children with Down syndrome: A preliminary investigation. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology. Advance online publication.


This study was supported in part by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health Grants T32HD007489 (Hartley), P50HD105353 (Chang), and F31 DC018716 (Lorang) awarded to the University of Wisconsin–Madison, as well as the Vilas life cycle award (Sterling) and startup funds from the University of Wisconsin–Madison (Sterling).