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Study finds relationships between language proficiency, play and social competency in 2 year-olds.

Elisabeth Brekke Stangeland’s Ph.D. thesis highlights the relationship between language proficiency and social competency in children as young as 2 years and 9 months. This is important knowledge for childcare practitioners who meet these children daily.

Elisabeth Brekke Stangeland at the Reading Centre will defend her PhD thesis Language proficiency, play and social competence - a study on variation and relationships  at the University of Stavanger, Tuesday, April 24th.

The relationship between language and play

One of the findings in Brekke Stangeland’s thesis is a clear relationship between language proficiency and social competency in children at 2 years and 9 months of age. This has not previously been subject to research in a Norwegian early education context.

The study shows a significant variation in children’s participation in play. Children who have poorer language skills are less active in play and other activities requiring their use of language, than their peers with strong language skills.

Gender differences

Brekke Stangeland’s thesis also shows differences between boys and girls when it comes to language proficiency in children at the age of 2 years and 9 months. Boys participate somewhat less than girls in preschool language activities. However, the differences are larger within the group of boys, than between the genders.

Multilingual children

There is a distinct relationship between Norwegian language skills and social functioning amongst the multilingual children in the study. At the age of 2 years and 9 months, multilingual children have poorer Norwegian language skills and social functioning than monolingual children.

Important knowledge for childcare practitioners

This study indicates that regardless of why a child shows poor language proficiency, this trait is related to lower social competence. Traditionally, research and knowledge on this topic has belonged to the fields of Psychology and Special needs education, involving children with specific language impairment. This thesis points to the fact that the relationship between language proficiency and social competency seems to be a general phenomenon, and not exclusive for children with specific language impairment.

This is important knowledge for general childcare practitioners, who meet and work with these children in childcare institutions on a daily basis. They need this knowledge in order to provide early help and support to the children affected by these issues, and in order to prevent that challenges in this area develop into difficulties.

The Stavanger project: More than 1000 children in Stavanger

For her PhD thesis, Brekke Stangeland has used data from the Stavanger project, which has followed 1005 children in the city of Stavanger from childcare age to Grade 5. Childcare employees have been responsible for gathering the data in a period of 3 months from the day the children turned 2 years and 6 months. This provides a holistic and dynamic view of the children’s skills and abilities in an everyday setting. 

By: Elisabeth Rongved.

Elisabeth Brekke Stangeland (Photo: Elisabeth Tønnessen)

Elisabeth Brekke Stangeland (Photo: Elisabeth Tønnessen)