Evidence briefings

Quantity vs quality of child-directed speech: Which matters most?

Prof Elena Lieven, Prof Anna Theakston and Prof Caroline Rowland, The Universities of Manchester  and Liverpool

Is it the number of words children hear (quantity) or the kinds of words we use and interactions we have with children (quality) that make the biggest difference to their language development? This briefing summarises the evidence.

How can our responses to babies' gestures help with their language development?

Dr Laura Boundy, Dr Thea Cameron-Faulkner and Prof Anna Theakston, University of Manchester 

Research has shown that caregiver responses to babies' gestures can help with their language development. This briefing summarises the evidence.

What works to support parent child interaction in the early years?

Prof Anna Theakston, University of Manchester and Prof Caroline Rowland, University of Liverpool
This briefing summarises the evidence presented in the Early Intervention Foundation's report Foundations for Life: What works to support parent child interaction in the early years. It was first published as a blog on the EIF's website in August 2016.

How can parents influence their children's language development?

Prof Julian Pine and Prof Caroline Rowland, University of Liverpool
We are often asked to recommend good quality research papers on the role that parents have in their children's language development. In this evidence briefing, we've attempted to address this by collating some of the most influential research in this area.

How does shared book-reading help boost child language development in the early years?

Prof Caroline Rowland, Dr Claire Noble, Dr Jamie Lingwood and Anna Coates, University of Liverpool
This evidence briefing summarises the evidence for the role of shared book-reading in children’s language development in the early years (0-5 years). It covers, quite broadly, book-reading situations in which an adult and child (or group of children) sit down to share books together.

Myths and misconceptions about language development in multilingual children 

Prof Ludovica Serratrice, University of Reading
According to the 2011 Census, 39% of UK primary school children speak English as an additional language. It is therefore crucial that early years professionals are able to give honest, accurate advice to parents and other practitioners about what we might expect of these children in terms of their language development. This evidence briefing details and debunks a number of misconceptions about multilingual language development.

Guest Evidence Briefings

How can we encourage parents to take part in programmes to boost their children's development?

Dr Jamie Lingwood, Dr Josie Billington and Prof Caroline Rowland, University of Liverpool

Many preschools, nurseries and health visitor clinics run training and intervention programmes that are designed to help parents boost their children’s development. These programmes can have a positive influence on a range of child and family outcomes, from improving children’s language development to changing caregivers’ parenting behaviours. However research shows that many families, particularly disadvantaged families, never engage with these programmes, or engage only sporadically. In this briefing, we outline some of the most important barriers to participation according to recent research. We then discuss proposed solutions.

The impact of baby sign on infants and their parents

Dr Elizabeth Kirk, University of York
Baby sign teaches parents to use key word signs or gestures with their preverbal infant and is claimed to improve a range of outcomes for both the infant and their parents, including accelerated language acquisition, increased IQ and enhanced bonding. Researchers have traced the source of the evidence for statements made across 33 baby sign websites and found that more than 90% were based on opinion articles, not on published peer-reviewed scientific articles. This evidence briefing provides an objective account of the available evidence that has evaluated the impact of baby sign on infants and their parents.

Social disadvantage and language delay

Centre of Research Excellence in Child Language
Language delay during the early years can have long-term consequences on a child’s education, health and well-being. Social disadvantage exacerbates the problem. In this policy briefing, our colleagues at the Centre of Research Excellence in Child Language explain why social disadvantage causes problems, and describe what practitioners and policy makers can do to help.