Why do some children speak earlier and better than others?

By Drum Digital
28 July 2014

A new study shows genes could be responsible for slower language development in identical twins. This could mean language acquisition mainly depends on genetics rather than how children are brought up. The study is now part of the so-called “nature-versus-nurture” debate.

The study was done by American researchers to examine the “twinning effect”. Part of this effect is less language achievement in twins compared to single children. Chief researcher Professor Mabel Rice of the University of Kansas in the US says the expectation before the study was that the effect would be equally big in both identical and nonidentical twins.

A total of 473 sets of twins were studied and researchers found 47 percent of the identical twins were slower in language development compared to only 31 percent of the nonidentical twins. The twins in the study were 24 months old. Language retardation means a child’s language skills are lower than expected for their age and sex, based on how many words they speak and the combination of two or more words in sentences.

“This finding disputes hypotheses that attribute delays in early language acquisition of twins to mothers whose attention is reduced due to the demands of caring for two toddlers,” says Professor Rice.

“This should reassure busy parents who worry about giving sufficient individual attention to each child.”

But Professor Rice points out the prevalence of delays in language acquisition could be affected by babies being born prematurely or by complications during birth, which are more common in identical twins.

-Suzaan Hauman

Sources: eurekalert.org, business-standard.com

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