Siblings And Language Development

siblings talking

Communication is comprised of both expressive and receptive language skills. Receptive skills are what we hear and understand. Expressive language is vocabulary, usage (grammar) and articulation (how words sound when we pronounce them).

Having an older brother can cause a delay in language development of the younger child.

This surprising finding comes from the EDEN cohort group (a group of over 1,000 children and birthing parents followed from 0 to 5 ½ years old.)

This might surprise you! Many people assume that having an older sibling means the younger child is growing up in a rich language environment—more people talking more often. The opposite has shown to be true—but only if the older child is a boy. Children with an older sister have the same rate of language development as children with no older sibling. The study found that having an older brother creates on average a 2-month delay in language development compared to children with an older sister.

The take-home: don’t worry about it!

The researchers aren’t sure why this happens. But the “take home” for parents might simply be to not worry if your younger child isn’t hitting language milestones as early as an elder brother did. It’s impossible not to compare your children to each other, but this study gives us a specific example of how comparison isn’t helpful. In other words, if your two children didn’t develop language at exactly the same rate, that’s pretty normal.

If you are concerned about your child’s communication skills:

Contact Parent Trust’s Family Help Line to find out how you can receive a free developmental screening. 1-800-932-4673