The Impact of Maternal Negative Language on Children’s Language Development

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Various features of infant- and child-directed speech (IDS/CDS) are known to have a positive impact on children’s language development. Some, such as directive language, appear to be less facilitating. We investigated whether mothers’ usage of negative language impacts children’s language development. Thirty-three mothers’ language samples at 30 months and children’s conversational language samples at 66 months were analyzed to locate operationally defined negative language and imperatives. Five language sample analysis measures were utilized to assess children’s expressive language abilities. Inverse relationships between maternal use of negative language and children’s language outcome measures were found. This preliminary result suggests that the more children hear negative language at an earlier age, the lower their language outcomes are at a later age. This study was exploratory in nature, and various limitations and implications for future studies are outlined in the paper.