Maternal Speech Quality and Child Language in the Context of Maltreatment
Maltreated children tend to have deficits in language skill throughout childhood, regardless of socioeconomic status. It is thought that children’s exposure to language during early childhood is predictive of later language development. The current study investigated the quantity and quality of maltreating mothers’ speech during interactions with their three- to six-year-old children and assessed whether differences in maternal speech quality mediate the relation between maltreatment and children’s language skill. 83 mother-child dyads played together with experimenter-provided toys and their language skill was assessed at baseline and one year later. 55 of these dyads had a documented history of child maltreatment with the mother being named as a perpetrator. Results indicated that there was not a significant difference between maltreating and nonmaltreating mothers’ speech quantity or quality. Further, maternal speech quality did not significantly mediate the association between maltreatment and child language skill.