Father-toddler communication in low-income families: The role of paternal education and depressive symptoms

Jenessa L. Malin, Elizabeth Karberg, Natasha J. Cabrera, Meredith Rowe, Tonia Cristaforo, Catherine S. Tamis-LeMonda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Using data from a racially and ethnically diverse sample of low-income fathers and their 2-year-old children who participated in the Early Head Start Research Evaluation Project (n = 80), the current study explored the association among paternal depressive symptoms and level of education, fathers' language to their children, and children's language skills. There were three main findings. First, there was large variability in the quality and quantity of language used during linguistic interactions between low-income fathers and their toddlers. Second, fathers with higher levels of education had children who spoke more (i.e. utterances) and had more diverse vocabularies (i.e. word types) than fathers with lower levels of education. However, fathers with more depressive symptoms had children with less grammatically complex language (i.e. smaller MLUs) than fathers with fewer depressive symptoms. Third, direct effects between fathers' depressive symptoms and level of education and children's language outcomes were partially mediated by fathers' quantity and quality of language.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)155-163
Number of pages9
JournalFamily Science
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Jul 2012


  • depression
  • fathers
  • language
  • low income
  • toddlers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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