Parent-child conversations during play

Catherine S. Tamis-LeMonda, Lisa Baumwell, Tonia Cristofaro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The language of mothers, fathers, and children was examined in 50 low-income families. Mother-child and father-child dyads were videotaped separately during play when children were 2;0 years old. Language transcriptions were coded for communicative diversity, word types, and grammatical complexity in parents and children. Mother-child and father-child conversations were similar and were strongly correlated at the dyad level, although differences emerged in the repetitions of children's utterances, closed-ended questions, affirmations, and action directives. Mothers' and fathers' language related to children's language in specific ways. Individual children experience relatively enriched or impoverished language environments, rather than one parent "compensating" for the other. This may explain why some low-income children lag in their language development early on, whereas others are "on track."

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)413-438
Number of pages26
JournalFirst Language
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2012


  • Fathers' language
  • language development
  • mother language
  • parent-child interactions
  • parent-child play

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language


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