Maternal Correlates of Growth in Toddler Vocabulary Production in Low-Income Families


  • The findings reported here are based on research conducted as part of the national Early Head Start Research and Evaluation Project funded by the Administration on Children, Youth and Families (ACYF), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services through Grant 90YF0009 to Harvard University Graduate School of Education. The research was conducted in collaboration with Early Education Services in Brattleboro, Vermont. The first and fourth authors are members of the Early Head Start Research Consortium. The consortium consists of representatives from 17 programs participating in the evaluation, 15 local research teams, the evaluation contractors, and ACYF. The content of this publication does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Health and Human Services. The analyses and writing of this paper was supported by an AERA/OERI dissertation grant to the second author. The authors wish to express their gratitude to their program partner and to the participating families.

concerning this article should be addressed to Barbara Alexander Pan, Larsen Hall, Harvard Graduate School of Education, Cambridge, MA 02138. Electronic mail may be sent to


This study investigated predictors of growth in toddlers' vocabulary production between the ages of 1 and 3 years by analyzing mother–child communication in 108 low-income families. Individual growth modeling was used to describe patterns of growth in children's observed vocabulary production and predictors of initial status and between-person change. Results indicate large variation in growth across children. Observed variation was positively related to diversity of maternal lexical input and maternal language and literacy skills, and negatively related to maternal depression. Maternal talkativeness was not related to growth in children's vocabulary production in this sample. Implications of the examination of longitudinal data from this relatively large sample of low-income families are discussed.