THE SOCIAL NETWORKS OF TODDLERS
We begin this book with a section on the social networks of toddlers in the latter part of their second year. Both chapters in this section focus on the impact of the child's network on the development of spoken language, a quintessentially human and social skill.
It is interesting that despite a very large and in many ways excellent research literature on young children's social interactions and on language acquisition, there is not to our knowledge any prior work on toddler's networks, or on the possible impact of these social networks on speech. Previous work has been largely concerned with mother-infant interaction and to a lesser extent with father-infant interaction. Yet even by the second year of life, children have contact with a number of people each day, and over the course of a week or a month may interact with numbers of adults and other children in their extended families, their neighborhoods, their own and others' homes.
Recognizing that language development must be affected by the child's complex of social encounters, rather than only by the most significant one or two, these two studies have attempted to quantify the child's entire social network along dimensions that were believed likely to yield distinctions significant for understanding various aspects of the child's developing speech. Therefore, not only was the effect of the total undifferentiated network studied but also the differential effects of the child's adult and peer networks.
Two methodological points that other network researchers should consider might be noted here. First, total network size -- for example, the number of network members -- appears to be a less discriminating measure than