Health Team

Study: Fathers Play Role in Child's Speech Development

Past studies showed mothers greatly influence their child's speech development, but a new study suggests a father's role is just as important.

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Children learn a lot of things from their parents, including speech. Past studies focus more on the mother's influence on a child's speech development, but a new study suggests a father's role is just as important.

Michael Hopfinger of Durham is a trucks-and-trains kind of guy. He loves to have his dad, Joe, along for the ride.

"I mean it never seems like there's enough time in the day to spend as much time with him as I'd like to," said Joe Hopfinger.

Play time is also talking time.

"Michael is especially talkative and learns so much vocabulary-wise and really likes to talk," said Jenny Hopfinger, Michael's mom.

Studies before have shown that mothers greatly influence their child's speech development. A new study done by Penn State and the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute in Chapel Hill included the father in the equation.

"When fathers used a really diverse vocabulary when children were 2, their children later at age 3 had a more advanced language development," said Nadia Pancsofar, a developmental psychologist with FPG.

Pancsofar said families in the study were dual-income parents with a 2-year-old child in day care.

Those earliest years are critical in speech development. If there are speech problems, teachers, child care professionals and parents need to know where to focus their effort.

The new study shows "that mothers are not the only people who may be important in their children's development," said Pancsofar.

Having a father involved as well as a mother is something that comes naturally for the Hopfingers.

"Joe is very interactive with Michael, and they spend a lot of time together," said Jenny Hopfinger.

According to the Child Development Institute, a child's vocabulary should be anywhere between 150 to 300 words by age 2. About two-thirds of what they say should be intelligible.


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