Word Gap: When Money’s Tight, Parents Talk Less to Kids

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University of California, Berkeley’s latest study describes the vocabulary disparity between children from low-income households and children from more affluent families. For decades, the “word gap” has been an ongoing issue linked to socioeconomic struggles and led to striking differences in academic achievement. Parents were often burdened by the brunt of the blame for not interacting more with their children. However, findings from UC Berkeley’s research team suggest that the difference in children’s lexicons extends beyond “poor parenting.” The study conducted a two-part experiment focused on a group of 84 parents and their 3-year-olds. The first part divided the parents into a control group and an experimental group, the latter who were then told to reflect on their financial scarcity. Results showed that the experimental group interacted less with their 3-year-olds than the control group. The second part of the study depicted similar results in a month-long at-home analysis between parent and child. Towards the end of the month – typically when most parents are waiting for their next paycheck or source of income – researchers noticed a drop in interaction and discussion. These outcomes indicate that parents concerned about finances are less likely to have time to spend with their children. This is not to conclude that these children are doomed to a life of underachievement in comparison to their wealthier peers, but rather acknowledge the importance of providing parents with proper resources so they may focus on parenting.

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