Variations in the Home Language Environment and Early Language Development in a Peri-urban Community in China

Parental investment in the home language environment during the earliest years is a critical predictor of early language development. Because most studies investigating the home language environment and child language development have been conducted in Western, high-income, and developed settings, less is known about such environments in low- or middle-income settings. This study was conducted in a peri-urban area in Southwestern China in a sample of 81 rural migrant and urbanized farmer families with children aged 18-24 months. The home language environment was measured using Language Environment Analysis (LENA) recorders and software, while early language development was measured using the MacArthur-Bates Communicative Developmental Inventories expressive vocabulary scale. Findings reveal large and substantial variation in the sample's home language environments and a strong association between the home language environment and child language development. Certain demographic characteristics, such as household resources, maternal employment, and gender, are associated with the home language environment. These findings highlight the needs for interventions specifically targeting the home language environment to improve early language development of young children and for more research on early childhood development in peri-urban China.