Thursday, November 8, 2018

Relations Among Socioeconomic Status, Age, and Predictors of Phonological Awareness

McDowell, K. D., Lonigan, C. J., & Goldstein, H. (2007). Relations among socioeconomic status, age, and predictors of phonological awareness. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 50(4), 1079-1092.

There are many individual differences that influence a child’s ability to learn to read. For example, the ability to identify or manipulate sounds in words known as phonological awareness has been found to be strongly related to reading success. McDowell and colleagues consider why phonological awareness skills may differ across individuals by examining two hypotheses. First, the phonological deficit hypothesis which holds that children with poorly established phonological representations will have difficulty with phonological awareness tasks. The second is the lexical restructuring model which describes a child’s phonological awareness skill as a function of their vocabulary. In other words, as a child’s vocabulary grows, they develop more sophisticated spoken word recognition skills, and this allows them to break down a word which makes the phonemic units of the words more accessible. This study involved the examination of the extent to which phonological awareness skills were explained by performance on measures related to these two hypotheses (speech sound accuracy and vocabulary, respectively) as well as the child’s age and socioeconomic status.

Preschool participants between the ages of 2 and 5 years old completed a wide range of speech and language assessments to capture phonological awareness skill, vocabulary and speech sound accuracies. Results revealed that speech sound accuracy, vocabulary, SES, and age each contributed unique variance to the prediction of phonological awareness skill. The authors concluded that since speech sound accuracy and vocabulary both explained phonological awareness that these results support both the phonological deficit hypothesis and the lexical restructuring model. Further analyses revealed that age moderated the relationship between speech sound accuracy and phonological awareness.  These results indicated that as children get older the continued occurrence of speech sound inaccuracies more strongly predicts poor phonological awareness skills.

This research illustrates the complexity that individual differences bring to predicting a child’s ability to learn to read. Further, the results emphasize the need to build both vocabulary knowledge and good quality of phonological representations of known words.

Blogger: Meghan Vollebregt is a student in the combined SLP MClSc/PhD program working under the supervision of Dr. Lisa Archibald.

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