Skip to main content
Log in

Father-child and mother-child speech: A perspective on parental roles

  • Published:
European Journal of Psychology of Education Aims and scope Submit manuscript

Abstract

An analysis of the existing research on parents' speech to young children suggests that the differences between mothers' and fathers' speech appear especially in the nature of their vocabulary and in certain functional and conversational aspects of their speech when addressing their children. The findings suggest that the father is a more demanding or challenging conversational partner for the young child than the mother, who tends to be more sensitive to the child's abilities and requires less of the child as a conversational partner. We interpret these differences as reflecting parental roles which are in part different and complementary. The mother's specific role is to provide a feeling of security by avoiding situations where the child's established acquisitions would be challenged, while still stimulating the child. The father's specific roles is to prompt the child to attain higher levels of success, even if it means momentarily destabilizing the child. Literature on children's communicative behaviors with each parent was also examined. The sparse amount of research in this field reveals that children may communicate differently with mothers and fathers. The conclusions of this literature review are discussed in terms of different perspectives open for future research.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Similar content being viewed by others

References

  • Bellinger, D., & Gleason, J. B. (1982). Sex differences in parental directives to young children.Sex roles, 8, 1123–1139.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bredart-Compernol, C., Rondal, J., & Peree, F. (1981). More about maternal and paternal speech to language-learning children in various daydic and triadic situational contexts.International Journal of Psycholinguistics, 8, 149–168.

    Google Scholar 

  • Broen, P. A. (1972).The verbal environment of the language-learning child. Monograph of American Speech and Hearing Association, no. 17, December. Cited in Snow & Ferguson (Ed.) (1977).

  • Comeau, J., Paré, D., & Simoneau, C. (1991).Communication style of mothers: effect of parental control behavior. 11th. Biennial Meeting of the International Society for the Study of Behavioral Development, Minneapolis.

  • Ervin-Tripp, S., O'Connor, M. C., & Rosenberg, J. (1984). Language and power in the family. In C. Kramerae, M. Schulz, & W. O'Barr (Eds.).Language and power (pp. 116–135). Reverly Hills: Sage Publications.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gleason, J. B. (1975). Fathers and other strangers: men's speech to young children. In D. P. Dato (Ed.).Developmental psycholinguistics: theory and applications (pp. 289–297). (Georgetown, University Round Table on Language and Linguistics). Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gleason, J. B., & Weintraub, S. (1978). Input language and the acquisition of communicative competence. In K. Nelson (Ed.).Children's language. (Vol. I, pp. 171–222). New York: Gardner Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Golinkoff, R., & Ames, G. (1979). A comparison of fathers' and mothers' speech with their young children.Child Development, 50, 28–32.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hladik, E., & Edwards, H. (1984). A comparative analysis of mother-father speech in the naturalistic home environment.Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 13, 321–332.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hummel, D. D. (1982). Syntactic and conversational characteristics of fathers' speech.Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 5, 465–483.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kavanaugh, R., & Jen, M. (1981). Some relationships between parental speech and children's object language development.First Language, 2, 103–115.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kavanaugh, R., & Jirkovsky, A. (1982). Parental speech to young children: a longitudinal analysis.Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 28, 297–311.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kriedberg, G. (1975).Hail to the chief. Unpublished paper, Boston University. Cited in Gleason & Weintraub (1978).

  • Kruper, J. C., & Uzgiris, I. (1987). Fathers' and mothers' speech to young infants.Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 6, 597–614.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Labrell, F. (1990). Father and mother didactic strategies in toddlerhood: a question of autonomy.Fourth European Conference on Developmental Psychology, Stirling, August.

  • Lipscomb, T., & Coon, R. (1983). Parental speech modification to young children.The Journal of Genetic Psychology, 143, 181–187.

    Google Scholar 

  • Malone, M. J., & Guy, R. (1982). A comparison of mothers' and fathers' speech to their 3-year-old sons.Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 6, 599–608.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mannle, S., & Tomasello, M. (1987). Fathers, siblings and the bridge hypothesis. In K. E. Nelson & A. van Kleeck (Eds.),Children's Language (Vol. 6, pp. 23–41). Hillsdale NJ: Erlbaum.

    Google Scholar 

  • Masur, E., & Gleason, J. B. (1980). Parent-child interaction and the acquisition of lexical information during play.Developmental Psychology, 16, 404–409.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • McLaughlin, B., White, D., McDevitt, T., & Raskin, R. (1983). Mothers' and fathers' speech to their young children: similar or different?Journal of Child Language, 10, 242–252.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • McLaughlin, B., Schutz, C., & White, D. (1980). Parental speech to five-year-old children in a game playing situation.Child Development, 51, 580–582.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mervis, C., & Mervis, C. (1982). Leopards are kitty-cats: object labeling by mothers for their thirteen-month-olds.Child Development, 53, 267–273.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Osofsky, J. D., & O'Connell, E. S. (1972). Parent-child interaction. Daughters' effects upon mothers' and fathers' behaviors.Developmental Psychology, 7, 157–168.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Papousek, M., Papousek, H., & Haekel, M. (1987). Didactic adjustments in fathers' and mothers' speech to their 3-month-old infants.Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 5, 491–516.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pêcheux, M. G., Labrell, F., & Pistorio, M. (1992). What do parents talk about to infants?Early Development and Parenting, 3, 22–27.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ratner, N. B. (1988). Patterns of parental vocabulary selection in speech to very young children.Journal of Child Language, 15, 481–492.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rondal, J. (1980). Fathers' and Mothers' speech in early language development.Journal of Child Language, 7, 353–369.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Snow, C. (1972). Mothers' speech to children learning language.Child Development, 43, 549–565.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Snow, C., & Ferguson, C. (Eds.) (1977).Talking to children: Language input and acquisition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Stein, A. (1973).An analysis and comparison of mothers' and fathers' speech to children in a story-telling situation. Unpublished paper, Boston University School of Education, cited in Gleason (1975).

  • Tomasello, M., Conti-Ramsden, G., & Ewert, B. (1990). Young children's conversations with their mothers and fathers: differences in breakdown and repair.Journal of Child Language, 17, 115–130.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Yogman, M. W., Cooley, J., & Kindlon, D. (1988). Fathers, Infants and Toddlers: A Developing Relationship. In P. Bronstein & C. Pape Cowan (Eds.).Fatherhood today: Men's Changing Role in the Family (pp. 53–65). New York: John Wiley & Sons.

    Google Scholar 

  • Weintraub, S. (1976). Some sex differences in the language parents address to children.First Annual Boston University Conference on Language Development, October, 1976.

  • Weist, R., & Kruppe, B. (1977). Parent and sibling comprehension of children's speech.Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 1, 49–58.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Weist, R., & Stebbins, P. (1972). Adult perception of young children's speech.Psychonomic Science, 27, 359–360.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Le Chanu, M., Marcos, H. Father-child and mother-child speech: A perspective on parental roles. Eur J Psychol Educ 9, 3–13 (1994). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03172881

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Revised:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03172881

Key words

Navigation