Document Type



Purpose: Achievement gaps exist between children from racial/ethnic minority and low SES homes and their peers, yet clear explanations for the gap have been elusive. In addition to vocabulary, some are examining pragmatics to help understand the gap, as functional language can a) reflect how caregivers stimulate language; b) show how preschoolers communicate and; c) affect academic performance. The purpose of this study was to examine links between linguistic performance and the communicative functions (CFs) of typically developing African American, European American, and Latino American preschool boys and girls and their mothers. Method: CFs were coded from one learning and play mother-child interaction (N=95) from the National Center for Early Development and Learning’s (NCEDL, 2005) study of Family and Social Environments. Relationships among CFs, demographics and performance on standardized language, receptive vocabulary, and social competence measures were analyzed. Results: Mother Reporting, mother Reasoning, mother Total Utterances, gender, and poverty predicted performance, while Predicting was the only child CF to predict performance. Conclusion: Associations between gender, poverty, and mothers’ CFs suggest that lower performance for boys and children who are poor may reflect a lack of experience rather than a lack of basic communicative competence, as few child CFs were related to performance. By implication, determinations of language deficits in CLD children should consider that observed difficulty may be due to differences in early exposure to some CFs by their mothers or how teachers are measuring performance.

Publication Date


Original Citation

Kasambira Fannin, D., Barbarin, O.A., & Crais, E.R. (in press). Effects of mothers' and preschoolers' communicative function use and demographics on concurrent language and social skills. Journal of the National Black Association for Speech-Language and Hearing.

Legacy Department

School of Allied Health and Communicative Disorders


Royster Society of Fellows at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill Office of Educational Research and Improvement in the U.S. Department of Education Foundation for Child Development



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