Specific parenting behaviors link maternal education to toddlers’ language and social competence

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This study seeks to unpack the underlying ways in which a mother’s education is linked with her toddler’s verbal and social skills. Specifically, it investigates whether different ways of parenting play a role in this.

The research uses data on around 2500 children and their mothers to test previous research showing in a very broad brush way that parenting behaviour does account, at least partially, for the relationship between the mother’s education and her child’s language and social skills.

Mothers’ parenting behaviour was described as either cognitive-verbally stimulating or socioemotionally supportive parenting behaviours. The researchers then looked to see whether these different ways of parenting in any way influenced the child’s  language skills at 26 months and their social skills at 38 months.

Children in the study who experienced more cognitive-verbally stimulating parenting tended to have stronger verbal skills while children with parents whose parenting was more socioemotionally supportive tended to be have better social skills. Additionally children with better early language skills do better socially later on.

The researchers conclude that different parenting behaviours matter. They recommend that early parenting programmes encourage these specific parenting behaviours both with a view to improving children’s outcomes and to reduce the impact of social inequities resulting from different levels of mothers’ education.

They further recommend that such programmes be community-based and equally accessible.