In February 2020 researchers from Australia published the results of their study to assess the number of words children hear and the number of vocal sounds they produced in their first year of life and to see whether it was related to the education received by the mother. It had been noted that there appeared to be a ‘30 million-word gap’ between children from a poorer socio-economic background and those from a higher socio-economic background and it had been proposed that the education received by the mother may have an impact on the child’s vocabulary. The 230 mothers taking part in the study were divided into the type of education they had received, and information on the number of adult words the child heard, the child vocal sounds made and conversation topics was collected via day long audio recordings when the children were 6 and 12 months old. Results showed that there was a large variation in the number of adult words spoken to the child ranging from 2,958 to 39,583 at 6 months and 4,389 to 45,849 at 12 months, which was irrespective of the education the mother had received. In addition there was no meaningful difference between the number of adult words spoken, the number of vocal sounds made or number of conversation topics the child heard across the maternal groups. The researchers concluded by saying that the word gap experienced by children is not due to the education of the mother during the child’s first year of life and that mothers generally should be encouraged to talk more to their child.
Brushe ME et al. How many words are Australian children hearing in the first year of life? BMC Pediatr. 2020 Feb 3;20(1):52.