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Research points to fathers’ role in children’s language development

Research by Lynne Vernon-Feagans into the leading role that fathers appear to play in the development of language by young children received much attention in the news media.

Vernon-Feagans, the William C. Friday Distinguished Professor of Early Childhood, Intervention and Literacy, has conducted research that found that fathers appear to matter more than mothers in children’s language development.

Vernon-Feagans’ work was cited by author Paul Raeburn in the book “Do Fathers Matter? What Science is Telling Us About the Parent We’ve Overlooked.” An excerpt from Raeburn’s book was published by

Raeburn’s excerpt described research in which Vernon-Feagans, working with Nadya Pancsofar of the College of New Jersey, studied interactions of fathers and mothers with their children at intervals during the children’s first three years and measured the children’s language development.

“They found that fathers’ education and use of vocabulary when reading picture books to their children at six months of age were significantly related to the children’s expressiveness at fifteen months and use of advanced language at age three,” Raeburn wrote. “This held true no matter what the mother’s educational level was or how she spoke to the children.”

Raeburn said the researchers hypothesize that fathers use a broader vocabulary with their children, and that fathers playing with children is more of a novelty, making them more interesting playmates.

The article is here.

Other recent articles in which Vernon-Feagan’s work was cited:

June 17, 2014: The Wall Street Journal’s ‘Work & Family Mailbox’ column

June 14, 2014: The Durham Herald-Sun, “UNC researcher: Dads make bigger difference in language development”

June 14, 2014:, UNC study: Fathers’ impact on child language

June 12, 2014: Washington Times, New research reminds us why fathers matter