Pediatrician and Parent Beliefs and Practices about Bilingual Language Development


Pediatrics: Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. 2021 March


Despite the prevalence of bilingualism in the U.S., myths and misconceptions about bilingual speech and language development continue to persist in both medical professionals and patient families. This study surveyed both pediatricians and Latino families to seek opinions on bilingual language development and common pediatrician recommendations. Results indicated that both parents and pediatricians held generally positive attitudes about bilingualism, however, negative misconceptions and myths continue to persist in both groups. For example, 10% of surveyed Latino parents believed the myth that hearing two languages could cause a speech and language delay. 26% of pediatricians reported the same belief, and 48% reported that they would provide advice to parents that goes against expert recommendation. Pediatricians who held more positive attitudes towards bilingualism tended to provide more counseling about bilingual language development and also provide materials, such as children’s books, in Spanish. This demonstrated a positive association between parents' use of Spanish when reading with their children, which has been shown to provide a more language-rich environment for children’s development. In summary, the study suggests that Pediatricians do play an important role in counseling and supporting parents that raise children in bilingual environments.

Key Takeaway

A large percentage of pediatricians surveyed held misconceptions about bilingual language development. Pediatricians holding a generally positive attitude toward bilingualism has shown a positive relationship with parents' use of heritage languages in the home environment, setting bilingual children up for greater success in developing speech and language skills.

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