Socioeconomic background, maternal parenting style, and the language ability of five- and six-year-old children.
The many factors that can affect a young child's language facility and vocabulary learning ability can be broadly divided into innate and environmental factors. Environmental factors can be further differentiated into human and physical environment factors. Innate factors (such as age and gender) and environmental factors (such as the socioeconomic or literacy level of the child's family) affect young children's vocabulary development, and the course of this development can change depending on these factors. According to the findings of some researchers who have examined differences in vocabulary competence on the basis of family income (Hwang, 2005; Shin, 2007; Shin & Kim, 2008; Son, 1983), children from high-income families use a richer vocabulary than do children from families with lower incomes. It was also found in these studies that the literacy environment of a child's home plays an important role in that child's vocabulary development. Son and Strasser (2002) also reported that the vocabulary competence of children from low-income families was relatively low. Learning new vocabulary is an important element of language acquisition and, particularly because rapid vocabulary development occurs during early childhood, it is necessary to explore the variables that relate to early childhood vocabulary acquisition (Kim & Kim, 2009). To assist all young children in the acquisition of a rich vocabulary regardless of their social class or home environment, researchers need to explore the socioeconomic variables, such as family income and parental education level, and the relationships of these variables to differences in children's vocabulary competencies.
A family's socioeconomic level affects its literacy environment, which differs depending on not only the parental education level or socioeconomic background (Lynch, Anderson, Anderson, & Shapiro, 2006) but also the literacy activities in the home. For example, it has been reported that low-income children experience home literacy activities different from those of middle-class children (Dickinson & De Temple, 1998). Hwang (2005) reported that low-income mothers rarely read books to their children and engage in a low level of literacy activities with them.
Since important aspects of language ability are acquired during early childhood, it is important for researchers and educators to understand the factors related to developing language abilities during this period. Although Korean children begin their primary school education at the age of 6, when the child is 5 years old, some preparation for primary school study occurs; activities related to reading, writing, and vocabulary increase greatly and are substantially impacted by parenting style, family economic status, and background factors such as parental education level. If the gap between high- and low-income families affects young children's language abilities, educators and pedagogical institutions must establish measures to close this, and researchers must establish whether or not language ability at age 5 affects language or learning ability during primary school. Therefore, in this study, we sought to establish the language ability components at age 5 (e.g., reading and writing), family socioeconomic variables, and environmental variables (e.g., maternal parenting style) that affect children's language ability during the primary school period. Variables such as paternal parenting style were not explored although Korean fathers are involved in child rearing to a greater extent in recent years than was the case previously. Our aim was also to identify the pathways through which these factors have their impacts. Based on this analysis, we also sought to identify the implications of our findings for families and early childhood education institutions in their efforts to strengthen mutual cooperation and for policy demands.
Our aim was to investigate the factors affecting the language and vocabulary abilities of children in the first grade and to explore the power and the pathways of the impacts of these factors. In particular, we focused on the relationships between these factors and the language and vocabulary abilities of 5-year-old children. We also focused on the effects of family socioeconomic variables and maternal parenting style on children's language abilities. The specific question we sought to answer in this study was: Through what pathways do factors such as a 5-year-old child's socioeconomic background, language ability, and maternal parenting style affect the child's language ability in the first grade?
The design of this study was longitudinal. We performed the first round of language ability testing with 578 children, all of whom were 5 years old and enrolled in kindergartens and child-care centers. In the second round, we performed follow-up testing of language ability and vocabulary with 328 of these children after they had enrolled in the first grade of primary schools.
Participants for the first round of testing comprised 286 girls and 292 boys, of whom 196 came from high-income and 382 from low-income families. In the second round, the participants were 164 girls and 164 boys, with 165 in the high-income group and 163 in the low-income group.
Maternal parenting style assessment criteria. We used the maternal parenting style assessment criteria developed by Uchida, Hamano, and Gotou (2008). Maternal parenting was classified into four styles of sharing, commanding, sacrificing, and controlling. Sharing parenting style is characterized by frequent interaction of parent and child, bidirectional communication in which the child's intentions are respected and experiences are shared, e.g., "I explain in detail about doing the right thing as many times as needed for my child to understand". Commanding parenting style is characterized by unilateral communication of parent with child and fixed rules that take precedence over the child's intentions. The sacrificing parenting style is characterized by the parent accommodating the child in every way to meet the child's demands, e.g., "My child is more important to me than anything else". The controlling parenting style is characterized by the parent's use of punishment to control the child, with consistent rules and principles adhered to in a strict environment. Mothers responded to 18 items, rating each of these on a 3-point scale (1 = disagree, 2 = uncertain, 3 = agree). We conducted a factor analysis to deduce and analyze the valid parenting style.
Child sociality assessment criteria (Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire). Developed by Goodman (1997), the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) consists of 25 items, with five items assigned to each of the five areas: emotion, behavior, excessive behavior/carelessness, peer relationships, and prosocial tendency. In this study, we assigned the task of rating to the parents. According to Ahn, Jun, Han, Noh, and Goodman (2003), who adapted these assessment criteria to Korea, the Cronbach's alpha measuring the interitem consistency of the Korean adaptation of the SDQ was .74.
Child language ability testing. We conducted the initial language ability testing when the participants were 5 years of age; this consisted of reading, writing, and vocabulary tests. Then, when the participants turned 6 and entered first grade, we evaluated them again using language ability and vocabulary testing tools designed for use with children in the first grade.
Reading ability test. The reading ability test comprised 20 two-syllable words and three two-phrase sentences. For the 20 vocabulary items, out of a possible three item types: "actual word", "similar word", and "low-frequency written word", we used the 20 actual word items from Choi's (2007) word-reading instrument. To provide diverse consonant and vowel combinations and to distribute consonants and vowels evenly across the initial, medial, and final sounds, we produced the 20 actual word items via simple linguistic manipulation. In the study by Choi (2007), interitem consistency reliability was 0.99, split-half reliability was 0.99, and test-retest reliability was 0.97. For the sentence-reading items, we took three items in sentence form from the written word perception items in Park's (1988) various reading tests. In this test, the interitem consistency reliability was .99.
Writing ability test. To determine the children's writing abilities, we modified the tool employed by Uchida (1995). In this test, the researcher gives the student two written words, "desk" and "fish" (in the student's native language) to look at and then write down. For each sample word, the researcher evaluated the number of times the student looked at the word, written word shape accuracy (writing accuracy), and writing order accuracy.
Vocabulary ability test. For the vocabulary test, we used the test tool that Kim, Chang, Lim, and Bak (1995) standardized, based on the items of the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-Revised (PPVT-R) developed by Dunn and Dunn (1981). This test contains 112 items and one point is awarded for each correct item, with a high score indicating a wide vocabulary. The test procedure consisted of the tester reading aloud a word, which could be a noun, adjective, or adverb, and the child choosing the corresponding picture.
First-grade language ability test. Uchida (2009) developed the first grade language ability test, which comprises the following five subdomains: finding related words, finding incorrect characters, grammar, reasoning, and comprehension. The test consists of 23 items. Because the scoring for each item differs by subdomain, the total score is calculated by converting the points for each subdomain into standard points.
First-grade vocabulary test. Uchida (2009) developed the first grade vocabulary test, which is composed of the following three subdomains: pictures, synonyms, and antonyms. The test contains 10 picture items, 16 same-meaning word items, and eight opposite-meaning word items, with correct answers worth one point each and incorrect answers worth zero (score range 0-34 points). The Cronbach's alpha measuring the interitem consistency of this test was .65.
In the first round of testing, to measure the language and vocabulary abilities of children, we conducted reading, writing, and vocabulary tests with 578 5-year-old children attending kindergartens and child-care centers in Seoul and the greater metropolitan area, from October 2008 to February 2009. During this period, we distributed and retrieved questionnaires that included items related to family economic factors and home literacy environment as well as the maternal parenting style assessment criteria. Parental compliance was 82.25%.
We performed the second round of follow-up testing after the children had enrolled in primary schools, conducting first grade language ability and vocabulary tests with 328 children between October 2009 and February 2010. To select children from low-income and high-income families as participants, we distributed questionnaires to the parents at kindergartens and child-care centers in low-income and high-income areas. Based on their responses, we selected children from families with less than three million won monthly income for the low-income group and those from families with more than five million won monthly income for the high-income group.
First, we calculated frequencies and percentages to categorize participants' demographic and socioeconomic backgrounds. Next, we calculated the means and standard deviations to deduce the technical data regarding the variables and calculated the Pearson correlation coefficients to verify the correlations with the variables. The third step was to verify the suitability of the instrument by testing the deduced factors through exploratory factor analysis (EFA), the validity of the instrument through confirmatory factor analysis (CFA), and the reliability of the instrument through reliability analysis. Finally, we performed structural equation modeling (SEM) to verify the relevant modeling among the related variables to test the study's hypothesis. The theoretical model comprised the following five variables: maternal parenting style, socioeconomic background, age 5 test score, first grade language ability test score, and first grade vocabulary score.
Measurement Model Analysis
To examine whether or not the measurement variables explained the potential variables well, we analyzed the measurement model through verifiable factor analysis. Prior to this analysis, parceling was performed on the maternal parenting style and the English test score, a subscore of the age 5 test score. We included the English score because there are many private English language institutes for young children in Korea. Based on results from the verifiable factor analysis, we eliminated the education expense factor of socioeconomic status (SES) and the reading, writing, and vocabulary factors of the age 5 test scores, as well as the same group, incorrect character, and comprehension factors of the first grade language test score (see Table 1 and Figure 1). As shown in Table 1, our analysis revealed all critical ratio (CR) values of measurement variables to be significant at 0.001-0.01 and showed that all measurement variables reflected the potential variable concepts well. According to the criterion that regards the standardized regression coefficient as significant when it is 0.05 or larger (Kim, 2005), the measurement variables in this study were statistically significant, since they all showed values of 0.60 or greater. Furthermore, when we examined the values of the squared multiple correlation (SMC) showing the variants that the nonstandardized factor loading (between the measurement items and concepts and the measurement variables) explained, the parametric estimations of the relationship between the potential and measurement variables were all significantly greater than 0, and the CR (t) values for these estimations all exceeded 2. With regard to SMC values, the variables that excluded the first grade language test score measurement variables showed values of 0.40 or greater. Considering that the criterion for adequate SMC level is 0.40 or greater (Song, 2009), we deemed the degree to which potential variables explained each measurement variable to be satisfactory overall.
The suitability indices of the measurement model all satisfied the established criteria and thereby verified the model's suitability (Table 2). The root mean square error of approximation (RMSEA) value shows higher suitability as it decreases. Generally, it is considered acceptable when it is below 0.1. The adjusted goodness of fit index (AGFI), incremental fit index (IFI), Tucker-Lewis index (TLI), and comparative fit index (CFI) values show the model's greater suitability as they increase, and the recommended acceptable level is 0.9 or greater (Song, 2009). Since the overall suitability indices were satisfactory, we judged the measurement model of this study to be suitable.
When we examined the correlations between all the potential variables, prior to analyzing the structural model, we found that all showed statistically significant correlations (Table 3) and, therefore, were suitable for the conditions of the structural equation modeling. With regard to the correlations between the key variables, we found a significant correlation between SES and parenting style and between age 5 test and both first grade vocabulary test scores and the first grade language test score. That is, the higher the SES, age 5 test score, and first grade vocabulary score, the higher the first grade language test score. In contrast, the greater the degree of control in mother's parenting style, the lower the first grade language test score. In addition, SES, sharing-style parenting, and age 5 test score showed significant correlations with first grade vocabulary score. In other words, the higher the SES and the lower the degree of control in mother's parenting style, the higher the age 5 test score and the first grade vocabulary test score (see Figure 1). In addition, since the variance inflation factor (VIF) between measurement variables showed values below 10, in the range of 1.37-2.03, and tolerance values above 0.1, in the range of 0.49-0.93, we had no concerns regarding multicollinearity (Song, 2009).
[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]
Structural Modeling Analysis of the Study Model Suitability analysis.
After verifying through measurement modeling that the measurement variables accurately measured the potential variables, we analyzed the structural modeling to find the pathways through which SES, controlling-style parenting, and age 5 test score affected first-grade vocabulary and language test scores. The results gave structural modeling suitability indices indicating that structural modeling was suitable (Table 4).
Structural Modeling Analysis
The pathway coefficients for the effects of parental SES, controlling-style parenting, and age 5 test score on the children's first grade vocabulary and language test scores are shown in Table 5. The direct effects of SES ([beta] = .133, p < .05) and first grade vocabulary test ([beta] = .813, p < .001) on first grade language test score were significant. That is, the higher the SES and first grade vocabulary test score, the higher the first grade language test score. Furthermore, unlike controlling-style parenting ([beta] = -.042, p > .05), the pathways for SES ([beta] = .133, p < .05) and age 5 test score ([beta] = .296, p < .001) affecting first grade vocabulary test were significant, and the higher the SES and first grade language test score, the higher the first grade vocabulary test score. In addition, controlling-style parenting ([beta] = -.164, p < .05) had a significant impact on the age 5 test score. That is, when the mother showed a greater degree of control in her parenting style, the age 5 test score was lower. To summarize, the higher the parents' SES, the lower the degree of control in mother's parenting style. The greater the degree of control, the lower the age 5 test score. The higher the age 5 test score, from the preceding effect, the higher the first grade vocabulary test score, and the higher the first grade vocabulary test score, the higher the first grade language test score.
Next, we examined the direct, indirect, and total effects of SES, controlling-style parenting, age 5 test score, and first grade vocabulary test score on the first grade language test score (Table 6). That is, among the indirect effects of SES, controlling-style parenting, and age 5 test score on first grade language test score, at 0.036 (p = .009), 0.218 (p = .342), and 0.010 (p = .004), respectively, only SES and age 5 test score were statistically significant. In other words, based on the significance verification results of the mediation effects, ultimately the indirect pathways, whereby SES affected first grade language test score through controlling-style parenting, age 5 test score, and first grade vocabulary test score, were significant. This result is presented as a model in Figure 2. Thus, the higher the parental SES, the lower the degree of control in mother's parenting style. In turn, the lower the control in mother's parenting style, the higher the child's age 5 test score, and this had a positive effect on the child's first grade vocabulary test score a year later, ultimately leading to a higher first grade language test score. When we examined the total effects, the variable with the greatest effect on a child's first grade language test score was first grade vocabulary test score ([beta] = 0.813, p < .001) followed by SES ([beta] = 0.036, p < .05) and then age 5 test score ([beta] = 0.036, p < .05). Furthermore, the SMC value measuring the degree to which SES, controlling-style parenting, age 5 test score, and first grade vocabulary test explained first grade language test score was 0.725.
[FIGURE 2 OMITTED]
Discussion and Conclusion
In this study we examined the pathways through which language ability components, such as reading and writing at age 5, and socioeconomic and environmental variables, such as maternal parenting, affect the language ability of children in the first grade. We established and analyzed a theoretical model in which such variables explained the language ability of children in the first grade, based on preceding studies. The variable directly affecting first-grade children's language ability was first grade vocabulary ability, indicating that the foundation of a child's language ability is vocabulary. That is, learning new vocabulary is the most important part of acquiring language skills, and, as the most fundamental unit of writing a composition, vocabulary provides the basis for understanding writing. Carlisle et al. (2000) found that as children gain greater vocabulary power, their subsequent learning achievements increase, and because a future achievement gap can develop for children who do not gain greater vocabulary power, educators urgently need to learn teaching strategies to ensure that children do make the necessary vocabulary gains. Furthermore, findings in studies by Pancsofar and Vernon-Feagans (2006) and Pancsofar, Vernon-Feagans, and The Family Life Project Investigators (2010) support this concept by demonstrating that the father's education level and understanding of the literacy environment are also highly important factors in a child's language development. Researchers surmise that knowledge of vocabulary strongly correlates to reading comprehension and overall learning achievement (Baumann, Kame'enui, & Ash, 2003; Becker, 1977; Lehr, Osborn, & Hiebert, 2004).
This indicates a circular process in which vocabulary provides the foundation for reading and enables a child to read fluently, and this ability in turn improves the child's ability to discover new words, which further improves reading. If researchers and educators can see this circular process as ultimately related to learning achievement, they will consider vocabulary to occupy a very important position with respect to reading during childhood.
The focal point of the structural modeling analysis in this study was that the family's socioeconomic background factors of income and parental education level directly affect a child's vocabulary power and, through mother's parenting style, affect the age 5 language test score. In turn, the first grade language test score reflects the age 5 test score. This reveals an impact that results from the basic socioeconomic gap. At the same time, it indicates that, for young children, the impact of negative parenting on childhood language ability was greater for children aged 5 than it was for children aged 6. That is, a child from a high-income family where parents are well-educated is affected directly through having such a background. Consequently, this child will have a high vocabulary test score, which in turn leads to a high language test score, whereas a child from a low-income family where parents have lower educational qualifications has a greater likelihood of having a low language test score. In addition, controlling-style parenting, which correlates negatively to income, affects the age 5 language test score negatively, and this in turn results in delimiting the child's first grade language test score by income group.
The controlling-style parenting shown in the structural modeling analysis is 1 of the 4 parenting styles revealed through factor analysis on maternal parenting assessment criteria--sharing style, commanding style, sacrificing style, and controlling style--and it is characterized by the tendency to use punishment as a method of controlling one's child. This parenting style can be considered to be the opposite of the most positive form of parenting, the sharing style, which is characterized by respecting the child's decision making, making decisions together, communicating, and sharing life experiences. Although sharing-style parenting's positive effects were not shown to be significant in this study, we can affirm that controlling-style parenting's negative effects are proven. Controlling-style parenting, which negatively affects age 5 test scores, not only impacts negatively on children's early language but also on their vocabulary ability after entering primary school. As such, parenting style plays an important role in a child's language ability development. Hence the benefit of the language learning of the young child, the parents, and educational institutions should recognize the negative impact of controlling-style parenting and help parents put into practice more frequent and active communication and values, such as respecting a child's decision making, that the sharing parenting style promotes.
High-quality education programs for children that provide positive peer interactions, good modeling by teachers, and abundant conversations can aid in accomplishing this (Alexander, Entwisle, & Olson, 2001; Farkas & Beron, 2004). In addition, teaching vocabulary (e.g., words used frequently in textbooks), as well as providing repeated vocabulary familiarization opportunities, is important, and child education institutions must provide a rich language environment where vocabulary learning is promoted (Lehr et al., 2004).
Furthermore, social awareness concerning the importance of maternal parenting in relation to language acquisition needs to increase, and parents must be made aware of its importance through local child education institutions. These educational institutions need to play a central role in providing parents with education (more actively and at an early point in a child's life) on how to achieve quality interactions between parents and the child and in implementing diverse education programs related to parenting for prospective parents. To accomplish this, universities' child education-related departments and child education institutions need support for program development and implementation.
This study's limitations and proposals for subsequent study are as follows. First, because of the limited availability of standardized language ability tests developed in Korea, we adapted and used foreign instruments as our study tools. Thus, in the future, researchers need to develop and utilize standardized study tools, based on more in-depth research of the need for Hangul (Korean alphabet) instruments. Second, in this study we explored mainly family-related variables and their correlations to children's language abilities. In recent years, however, increasing numbers of children are being enrolled at child education institutions, and, therefore, researchers need to explore the variables related to these institutions, such as the effects of their programs and the number of children enrolled. As noted earlier, we did not examine the influence of paternal parenting style and this topic will provide a field for study by future researchers.
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KI SOOK LEE AND SOON HWAN KIM
Ewha Womans University
Ki Sook Lee and Soon Hwan Kim, Department of Early Childhood Education, Ewha Womans University.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to: Soon Hwan Kim, Department of Early Childhood Education, Ewha Womans University, 11-1 Daehyun-dong, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul 120-750, South Korea. Email: email@example.com
Table 1. Factor Loading of Measurement Variables for Potential Variables Potential Measurement B [beta] variable variable SES Income 1.319 .689 Mother's education 1.016 .793 Father's education 1 .811 Parenting style Controlling style 1 .930 .701 Controlling style 2 1 .677 Age 5 test score Vocabulary .849 .633 English 1 .665 First grade vocabulary test Pictures .937 .641 Same meaning 1.612 .718 Different meaning 1 .647 First grade language test Incorrect character .743 .600 Reasoning 1 .623 Potential Measurement SE t variable variable SES Income .113 11.710 Mother's education .079 12.873 Father's education -- -- Parenting style Controlling style 1 .345 2.698 Controlling style 2 -- -- Age 5 test score Vocabulary .094 9.034 English -- -- First grade vocabulary test Pictures .106 8.831 Same meaning .171 9.415 Different meaning -- -- First grade language test Incorrect character .095 7.807 Reasoning -- -- Potential Measurement p SMC variable variable SES Income *** .475 Mother's education *** .628 Father's education -- .658 Parenting style Controlling style 1 ** .492 Controlling style 2 -- .458 Age 5 test score Vocabulary *** .401 English -- .443 First grade vocabulary test Pictures *** .411 Same meaning *** .516 Different meaning -- .418 First grade language test Incorrect character *** .360 Reasoning -- .389 Notes: N = 567; *** p < .001. Table 2. Measurement Model Suitability [chi square] df p RMSEA (90% AGFI IFI TLI CFI confidence interval) 59.804 43 .046 .035 .948 .984 .975 .984 Table 3. Correlations Between Potential Variables 1 2 3 4 5 SES 1 Controlling-style parenting -.24 ** 1 Age 5 test score .65 * -.17 *** 1 First grade vocabulary test .34 *** .11 *** .79 * 1 First grade language test .39 *** -.14 * .84 *** .86 *** 1 Note: *** p < .001. Table 4. Suitability of Structural Modeling in which SES, Controlling-Style Parenting, and Age 5 Test Score Affect First Grade Vocabulary and Language Test Scores [chi square] df p RMSEA (90% AGFI IFI TLI CFI confidence interval) 141.913 47 .000 .079 .900 .910 .872 .909 Table 5. Structural Modeling Pathway Coefficients B [beta] SE t p SES [right arrow] First grade language test .071 .133 .041 1.734 .083 First grade vocab. test [right arrow] First grade language test .552 .813 .081 6.821 *** SES [right arrow] First grade vocab. test .148 .188 .060 2.473 * Controlling-style parenting [right arrow] First grade vocab. test -.109 -.042 .213 -.512 .609 Age 5 test score [right arrow] First grade vocab. test .067 .296 .015 4.481 *** SES [right arrow] Controlling-style parenting -.084 -.274 .027 -3.135 ** Controlling-style parenting [right arrow] Age 5 test score -1.868 -.164 .826 -2.261 * Notes: * p < .05, *** p < .001. Table 6. Direct, Indirect, and Total Effects of Parental SES, Parenting Style, Age 5 Test Score, and First Grade Vocabulary Test Score on First Grade Language Test Scores Direct Indirect Total SMC effect effect effect SES [right arrow] First grade language test -- .036 * .036 * .725 Controlling-style parenting [right arrow] First grade language test -- .218 -- Age 5 test score [right arrow] First grade language test -- .010 * .010 * First grade vocab. Test [right arrow] First grade language test .813 *** -- .813 *** SES [right arrow] First grade vocab. test -- .031 -- .138 Controlling-style parenting [right arrow] First grade vocab. test -- .127 * .127 * Age 5 test score [right arrow] First grade vocab. test .296 *** -- .296 *** SES [right arrow] Controlling-style parenting -.274 ** -- -.274 ** .075 Controlling-style parenting [right arrow] Age 5 test score -.164 * -- -.164 * .027
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|Author:||Lee, Ki Sook; Kim, Soon Hwan|
|Publication:||Social Behavior and Personality: An International Journal|
|Date:||Jun 1, 2012|
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