Semester of Graduation

May 2024


Master of Arts (MA)


Communication Sciences & Disorders

Document Type



The 30 million word gap refers to the disparity in early language exposure between low socioeconomic status (SES) children and their higher SES peers; a gap that is thought to negatively impact children’s language development and future academic success. Although many early intervention approaches have proven effective in promoting language development among low SES children, they often fall short in terms of cultural responsiveness, which in turn affects caregiver buy-in. Culturally and linguistically diverse children disproportionately live in poverty, as such there is a need for research to inform more responsive interventions that take a strengths- based approach and build on caregiver beliefs and practices. The purpose of the current study was to characterize the language beliefs and practices of caregivers in the Deep South, a culturally and linguistically diverse region characterized by high rates of poverty, for the purpose of informing responsive early language interventions and promoting caregiver buy-in. Eighty-three caregivers were invited to complete a survey that aimed to address the following questions: 1) What areas in child development are most important to caregivers? 2) What are caregiver beliefs and practices surrounding child language development? 3) What barriers do caregivers face in supporting their child’s language development? Differences were examined across racial and SES groups. We found that language development and problem solving skills were most important across all caregivers. There were differences in various beliefs. High SES and Black caregivers both believed children learn language more from interacting with people than watching TV. Playtime, morning, and night routines were the top contexts during which caregivers reported talking to their child. Not Black, high SES, and low SES caregivers all most frequently reported teachers as a person their child frequently interacts with, while Black caregivers most frequently reported grandparents. However, mothers were the person their child talks to most frequently across all caregivers. Black caregivers were more likely to believe their own language abilities are a challenge in supporting their child’s language development, while Not Black caregivers were more likely to believe time is a challenge. We discuss the implications of our findings for promoting caregiver buy-in of interventions.



Committee Chair

Schneider, Julie M.