Social Networks of Mother and Child: An Examination of Their Function in Developing Speech
Suzanne Salzinger June Hampson New York State Psychiatric Institute Graduate Center City University of New York
This chapter is concerned with the functional relationship, in early childhood, between the child's social network and the child's speech. The study we describe here must in one sense be considered presumptuous, because few systematic data have so far been collected on the characteristics of children's networks ( Ellis, Rogoff, & Cromer, 1981; Garbarino, Burston, Raber, Russell, & Crouter, 1978; Tietjen, 1982) and preschoolers' networks ( Lewis, Feiring, & Kotsonis, 1984; Waldrop & Halverson, 1975), and even less information on infants' networks. We thus have very meager information upon which to base a study of the impact of 2-year-olds' social networks on their speech. Nevertheless, the significance of the concept of social network for understanding children's behavior and development will ultimately rest upon the relationships that can be demonstrated between it and important behaviors of children.
The particular questions we are asking about the relationship between networks and language may appear to be very simple, given the fact that what we now know about early language is much more detailed than what we propose to examine here. But until we have comparably sophisticated measures of network characteristics, it is useful to see just how far our current measurements will take us in using the social network in accounting for the development of this very important child behavior, namely, speech.
The first question to be addressed is whether the extent of the child's overall network is positively related to the child's total language output. In