Caregivers' Responses to Toddlers' Intelligible and Unintelligible Utterances
Frey, Jennifer Rebecca
The purpose of this study was to investigate the relation between child intelligibility and caregiver responses in caregiver-child interactions. Specifically, this study examined caregivers’ responses to toddlers’ intelligible, partially intelligible, and unintelligible utterances and analyzed whether the responses differed based on children’s intelligibility. A total of 38 children between 17 and 37 months of age and their primary caregivers participated in this study. Two population samples were included: (a) 19 toddlers with non-syndromic repaired cleft lip/palates (CLP) and their caregivers; and (b) 19 toddlers with typical language development and their caregivers. Caregiver-child interactions in play-based clinic sessions were video recorded, transcribed, and coded. Standardized language assessments and language sample data also were examined. Three approaches to data analysis were used. First, a descriptive analysis was conducted to examine how caregivers responded to children’s intelligible, partially intelligible, and unintelligible utterances. Second, a multilevel analysis was conducted to determine if there were statistical differences in caregivers’ responses (e.g., questions or comments) to different types of child utterances. Third, a sequential analysis was conducted to analyze the probability of caregivers’ use of questions and related comments in response to intelligible and unintelligible utterances of children with and without CLP. Findings from this study suggest caregivers are highly responsive to toddlers’ communication attempts, regardless of the intelligibility of those utterances. Significant differences were observed in caregivers’ use of questions in response to unintelligible utterances by children with and without CLP and in intelligibility and productive language of children with CLP compared to children with typical speech and language development. This study was a preliminary study, which may serve as a basis for future studies investigating the caregiver language support strategies needed to promote optimal language development for children with high rates of unintelligible speech and low rates of spoken language. Suggestions for future research and implications for practices are discussed within the context of the findings and limitations of this study.