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Effects of mother's and father's education level and age at migration on children's bilingual vocabulary



The present study addressed important gaps in the research literature on bilingual development by examining the effects of both mother's and father's education level and age at migration on children's bilingual vocabulary in two different age groups. The sample included 81 preschoolers and 92 preadolescents with two Turkish immigrant parents living in Norway. The children were born in Norway, or migrated to Norway before/at the age of 3. The children completed Norwegian and Turkish vocabulary tests during home visits while mothers provided information regarding both parents’ education and age at migration in structured interviews. Results from hierarchical regression analyses showed that father's education significantly predicted all children's majority (Norwegian) vocabulary scores while mother's education significantly predicted majority vocabulary scores in the preschoolers. Father's education significantly predicted minority (Turkish) vocabulary scores among the preadolescents. Mother's, but not father's, age at migration significantly predicted preschoolers' majority vocabulary scores and preadolescents' minority vocabulary. Hence, the parental background variables predicted minority vocabulary scores only among the preadolescents, not the preschoolers. We conclude that mothers and fathers influence the minority and majority language skills of their bilingual children differently and that their influence varies depending on the age of the child.

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Corresponding author

ADDRESS FOR CORRESPONDENCE Ingelin Westeren, Ammerudveien 33E, 0958 Oslo, University of Oslo. E-mail:


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