Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science





First Advisor

Constance C. Beecher


This study investigates the use of an eight-week, parent-education program (LENA Start™) to increase the amount of child-directed speech, quantity of conversations, and parental knowledge of child development. For most young children, parents or caregivers primarily provide their language and literacy environment. However, all children do not receive the same early experiences due to differences in socioeconomic status or parent knowledge. Such differences can result in varied quantity and quality of linguistic input to the child, influencing later academic achievement. Therefore, interventions to combat the achievement gap between children of low and high socioeconomic status families are used and researched. To that end, 46 parents of infants and toddlers, about half of whom identified receiving public assistance, completed the LENA Start™ program and were assessed for growth in linguistic behaviors and child development knowledge. Participants received tips and practice to increase the number of words spoken to and the number of conversations engaged in with their child, paired with information about child language and brain development. Each week, participants recorded the number of words spoken to and number of conversational turns taken with their child by use of the LENA Digital Language Processor, receiving quantitative linguistic feedback. Participants completed pre and post SPEAK surveys, a test of parent child development knowledge, as well as the LENA Snapshot, a self-report questionnaire of child language ability. Findings revealed growth in word count and conversational turns, as well as growth in the overall knowledge of child development. No differences were found in growth or number of words and conversational turns based on participant public assistance status, although participants who received public assistance scored significantly lower on child development knowledge. Finally, the participants’ children exhibited greater than expected growth in language ability during the program. These findings provide evidence of a relationship between growth in linguistic behaviors and attending LENA Start™, an association among parent knowledge of child development and linguistic behavior, and the potential impact of increased parent linguistic behaviors on child language ability. The broader implications of these findings, the limitations, and the future directions of this research are discussed.


Copyright Owner

Craig Van Pay



File Format


File Size

78 pages