Date of Award:

2013

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)

Department:

Family, Consumer, and Human Development

Advisor/Chair:

Lisa K Boyce

Abstract

As the Latino portion of the United States population continues to grow each year, more and more children in the United States leave their Spanish-speaking homes and enter English immersion schools. Throughout their lives, these children are likely to shift language preferences from their home language, to the language of the community. However, maintaining development in their first language would be a benefit to them in multiple ways. Identifying factors within bilingual homes that influence English and Spanish language development in preschool-aged children will help researchers and practitioners encourage families to cultivate the optimal learning environment. This study endeavored to identify some specific social, linguistic, and literacy-related factors within the home that predict Spanish and English language development in 4-year-old children from low-income, predominantly Spanish-speaking families. Extant data from the Bilingual Early Language and Literacy Support Project (BELLS) were analyzed. Data were collected in participants' homes using various measures of the home and family environment. Results indicated children may begin to repress their first language in order to focus on learning a second language as early as 48 months. Maternal use of unique words, in Spanish, was a strong predictor of children's English expressive vocabulary, indicating that continuing to provide a rich language environment in the home language facilitates English language development. Furthermore, current measures of literacy and learning environments may be missing important behaviors present in Latino families that are distinctly different from behaviors in Caucasian families, thus making such measures inapt to predict language-related outcomes in Latino homes.

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