Dr. Irena Lovčević

Postdoctoral Researcher

The Effect of Older Sibling, Postnatal Maternal Stress, and Household Factors on Language Development in Two- to Four-Year-Old Children

Naomi Havron*, Irena Lovcevic*, Michelle Z.L Kee, Helen Chen, Yap Seng Chong, Mary Daniel, Birit F.P Broekman, Sho Tsuji

Developmental Psychology, 58(11), 2096–2113 (2022)


Previous literature has shown that family structure affects language development. Here, factors relating to older siblings (their presence in the house, sex, and age gap), mothers (maternal stress), and household size and residential crowding were assessed to systematically examine the different roles of these factors. Data from mother–child dyads in a Singaporean birth cohort, (677–855 dyads; 52% males; 58% to 61% Chinese, 20% to 24% Malay, 17% to 19% Indian) collected when children were 24, 48, and 54 months old, were analyzed. There was a negative effect of having an older sibling, moderated by the siblings’ age gap, but not by the older sibling’s sex, nor household size or residential crowding. Maternal stress affected language outcomes in some analyses but not others. Implications for understanding the possible effects of family structure on language development are discussed.

* Joint first authors