Maternal speech to normal and handicapped children: A look at question-asking behavior

Jane S. Leifer, Michael Lewis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Several studies have indicated that maternal speech to handicapped children differs markedly from speech to normal children and serves to inhibit the child's language growth. These claims are largely based on comparisons of speech to same-age normal and handicapped children. However, given that handicapped children often have substantial language delays, this age-matching procedure may be highly misleading. The present study examined maternal question-asking behavior in conversations with normal and handicapped children in order to compare the maternal linguistic environments of these two groups. Both same-age and same language level matching procedures were used. It is argued that the same-age matching procedure is misleading while the same-language level matching procedure is more appropriate for comparative analyses of maternal speech. The results suggest that mothers of handicapped children gauge their speech to the child's language level, a process which has been viewed as having a facilitative effect on language-learning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)175-187
Number of pages13
JournalInfant Behavior and Development
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - 1983

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


  • handicapped
  • language
  • material question-asking


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