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Changes in language usage of Puerto Rican mothers and their children: Do gender and timing of exposure to English matter?



This longitudinal study investigated changes in reported language usage between Puerto Rican mothers and their preschoolers over a 4-year period. It also examined whether differences in language usage occurred depending on the timing of children's exposure to English and children's gender. Seventy-six mothers reported the languages they and their children used when talking to each other during 2 years in Head Start, kindergarten, and first grade. Mothers of children who were exposed to Spanish and English prior to preschool entry reported using more English to their children than mothers of children who were not exposed to English until after preschool entry. The language usage of the children followed the same patterns as their mothers. The difference between the groups was maintained over the 4 years, although both groups increased their English usage. A gender effect was observed. Mothers of girls were five times more likely to use “More or All Spanish” than mothers of sons. In addition, girls who were exposed to Spanish only prior to preschool entry were six times more likely to speak to their mothers in “More or All Spanish” than other participating children. The bidimensional model of acculturation is used to present and interpret the findings.


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ADDRESS FOR CORRESPONDENCE Carol Scheffner Hammer, Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, 110 Weiss Hall, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA 19122. E-mail:


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Applied Psycholinguistics
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