Maternal Use of Decontextualized and Contextualized Talk: An In-Depth Investigation of Early Parent-Child Interactions in Down Syndrome.

Hilvert, ElizabethLorang, EmilySterling, Audra


Identifying patterns across the experiences of children with Down syndrome (DS) could help shape education practices and interventions. In this study, researchers compare the parent/child conversations between children with DS and those without. Samples of the language used during parent/child interactions were collected throughout a day and categorized into two categories, decontextualized (i.e., pretend and play talk) and contextualized (i.e. questions, and directives, directives, etc). Research like this helps us better understand the environment in which children with DS are growing up.


Purpose The goal of this study was to characterize and quantify maternal use of decontextualized and contextualized input during mother-child interactions including young children with Down syndrome (DS). Method Participants included 22 mother-child dyads with DS (M age = 42.8 months) and 22 mother-child dyads with typical development (M age = 44.0 months). Parent-child language samples were collected during free-play, book reading, and snack time, and coded for maternal decontextualized (i.e., pretend, explanatory, and narrative talk) and contextualized input (i.e., descriptions, conversation, praise, questions, and directives). Results Mothers of children with DS used a larger proportion of pretend talk compared to other types of decontextualized input and also used a larger proportion of questions, conversation, and descriptions compared to other types of contextualized language. Mothers of children with DS generally used a smaller proportion of decontextualized input compared to mothers of children with typical development, with the exception of pretend talk. Maternal decontextualized input was not related to children's age or language ability in DS. Conclusions Findings shed new light on the early language environments of children with DS, providing important insight into the ways that mothers of children with DS are incorporating decontextualized and contextualized talk into early mother-child conversations. Additional implications and future directions are discussed.