The Role of Social and Emotional Adjustment in Mediating the Relationship Between Early Experiences and Different Language Outcomes

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This paper looks at how the home learning environment of very young children might affect their language and communication skills later on.

The research draws on data from 5,000 children born in Scotland in 2003 to examine the links between how depressed or stressed parents were, the home learning environment of their child at age 2, their language use and development at age 11.

The children of depressed and stressed parents used language less well despite having an adequate listening comprehension and vocabulary. The home learning environnment, which included positive activities such as reading stories, painting, nursery rhymes and teaching letters/shapes, children’s language use, comprehension and vocabulary had better listening comprehension skills, expressive vocabulary and use of language.

Social and emotional adjustment of children as they entered school also played a role, mediating the relationship between parental mental health, the home learning environment and the difficulties in communication. The researchers say this points to the need for careful monitoring of children’s social and emotional development in primary and middle childhood.

The research concludes that services and policy aimed at improving child outcomes through better home learning environments must work hand in hand with those responsible for offering support for the mental health, social-emotional adjustment and wellbeing of parents and children from birth and into the school years.