Language and cognitive development

We review findings from a four-year longitudinal study of language learning conducted on two samples: a sample of typically developing children whose parents vary substantially in socioeconomic status, and a sample of children with pre- or perinatal brain injury. This design enables us to study language development across a wide range of language learning environments and a wide range of language learners. We videotaped samples of children’s and parents’ speech and gestures during spontaneous interactions at home every four months, and then we transcribed and coded the tapes. We focused on two behaviors known to vary across individuals and environments-child gesture and parent speech-behaviors that have the potential to index, and perhaps even play a role in creating, differences across children in linguistic and other cognitive skills. Our observations have led to four hypotheses that have promise for the development of diagnostic tools and interventions to enhance language and cognitive development and brain plasticity after neonatal injury. One kind of hypothesis involves tools that could identify children who may be at risk for later language deficits. The other involves interventions that have the potential to promote language development. We present our four hypotheses as a summary of the findings from our study because there is scientific evidence behind them and because this evidence has the potential to be put to practical use in improving education.

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Goldin-Meadow, S., Levine, S. C., Hedges, L. V., Huttenlocher, J., Raudenbush, S. W., & Small, S. L. (2014). New evidence about language and cognitive development based on a longitudinal study: hypotheses for intervention. American Psychologist, 69(6), 588-599.