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The relationship of parenting stress and child temperament to language development among economically disadvantaged preschoolers*



Oral language skills in the preschool years are predictive of children's later reading success and literacy acquisition, and among these language skills, vocabulary and narrative ability play important roles. Children from low socioeconomic families face risks to their language development and because of threats to these skills it is important to identify factors that promote their development among high-risk groups. This preliminary study explored two potential factors that may be related to language skills in 56 low SES mother–child dyads (children aged 2 ; 8–4 ; 10), namely child temperament and parenting stress. Results showed that child temperament and parenting stress were related to children's oral language skills. Child temperament characteristics that would likely aid social interaction were related to narrative ability and children rated high on emotionality had poorer receptive vocabulary skills. Parenting stress was related to children's receptive and expressive vocabulary skills. Results are interpreted in terms of the possible mediating role of parent–child interactions in children's oral language skill development, and future directions for family intervention are discussed.


Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Carole Peterson, Psychology Department, St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada, A1B 3X9. Phone: 709-737-7682. Fax: 709-737-2430. E-mail:


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Preparation of this article was primarily supported by Grant 27020400 from the Canadian Language and Literacy Research Network. Additional funding came from both CIHR and NLCAHR master's fellowships, Memorial University Undergraduate Career Experience Program, the Student Work and Service Program, Summer Career Placement Program and the Summer NSERC Undergraduate Fellowship program. We extend our thanks to the interviewers, transcribers and data analyzers who participated. Most of all we thank the parents and children who allowed us into their homes and cooperated so helpfully.



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