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J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2009 Apr;50(4):498-505. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2008.01991.x. Epub 2008 Nov 5.

Factors that influence vocabulary development in two-year-old children.

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  • 1Newcastle University, Newcastle, UK.



This research explored the relative impact of demographic, cognitive, behavioural, and psycholinguistic factors on vocabulary development in two-year-old children.


Two hundred and thirty-two children (24-30 months) were tested on expressive and receptive vocabulary, cognitive development, word learning and working memory skills. Parents completed a British adaptation (Klee & Harrison, 2001) of the MacArthur-Bates Communicative Development Inventory (CDI; Fenson et al., 1993), a demographic questionnaire and a questionnaire regarding the child's social-emotional behaviour.


Several demographic, child and processing variables were significantly correlated with CDI (vocabulary) scores, but the only significant unique predictors of CDI scores were nonword repetition (NWR; R(2) change = .36), sex (R(2) change = .05) and age (R(2) change = .04). Scores were only included when a child completed the entire NWR test (77% of toddlers).


The NWR task used in this experiment maximised participation in this group of toddlers, and was a strong predictor of vocabulary ability. Longitudinal research is warranted to explore the independent and reciprocal growth in working memory and language skills in children.

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