Self-Reported Parenting Behavior and Child Temperament in Families of Toddlers with and without Speech-Language Delay

Article excerpt

This study examined self-reported parenting behaviors, and child temperament and behavior, based on parental perceptions of 47 toddlers ages 25 to 31 months. Data were obtained via parental reports and direct assessment. Children were identified as having a speech-language delay (SLD, n = 17) or as typically developing (n = 30) based on standardized testing. The results indicated that parents of toddlers with SLD reported themselves as being significantly less nurturing and more punitive in their discipline than parents of children who were typically developing. Parental accounts also revealed that children with SLD were more detached and underreactive than children without a delay. The implications of these findings are considered with regard to providing intervention to children with early speech-language delay.


A variety of research has been conducted with children who display expressive and/or receptive language delays. Some of these children will catch up with typically developing peers in communication abilities before they enter school (Paul, 1991; Rescorla & Schwartz, 1990). Other children who have early delays will continue to display expressive and/or receptive communicative problems, as well as other social and academic difficulties, beyond their toddler years and are at high risk for academic problems (Paul, 1996). School performance in spelling, math, and reading also appears to be affected in children who exhibit preschool language disorders (Aram, Ekelman, & Nation, 1984). Hence, those with language delay are at risk for a variety of academic, behavioral, and interpersonal difficulties. Further, findings from various studies have indicated that speech impairments can have long-term psychosocial consequences, resulting in poor self-concept, altered social development and vocational selection (Felsenfeld, Broen, & McGue, 1992; Law, Garrett, & Nye, 2003; Silverman & Paulus, 1989), and difficulties in learning (Law, Garrett, & Nye, 2003). Thus, speech and/or language problems can affect an individual on many different levels, including psychosocial outcomes.

Although a number of studies have documented the short-term and longer term problems that these children can have (see Cohen, 2001, for an extensive review), limited research has examined young children's temperament or personality characteristics and key parenting behaviors, and how these may be associated with delayed communicative development in children. Our understanding of child characteristics, parenting behaviors, and family-related variables that put children at risk for speech-language delays or impairment remains limited (Bernstein, 2002; Paul, 2001). The purpose of this study was to examine differences between children with and without early speech and/or language delay with regard to self-reported parenting behaviors and parent-reported characteristics of child temperament.

A transactional model of development (Sameroff & Chandler, 1975) would support the concept that parenting behavior and child attributes are linked with children's communicative development in a systemically complex way. According to Yoder, Warren, and McCathern (1998), children's early intentional communicative behaviors elicit language-facilitating responses from the mother (or primary caregiver). Children who have delays, however, may have certain characteristics that prevent or discourage further exchanges. One key variable may be the child's temperament. Theoretically, parental characteristics and behavior are intricately associated with children's temperament on a "goodness and poorness of fit" continuum from the day the child is born (Thomas & Chess, 1977). This fit is based on the consonance or dissonance between early-appearing child characteristics that show some degree of consistency over time (i.e., temperament), personal characteristics of the parent, and parental expectations of the child in terms of behavior and abilities. …