The concerns of parents raising multilingual infants and toddlers in Quebec

  • Erin Quirk (Speaker)
  • Melanie Brouillard (Speaker)
  • Alexa Ahooja (Speaker)
  • Susan Ballinger (Speaker)
  • Linda Polka (Speaker)
  • Krista Byers-Heinlein (Speaker)
  • Kircher, R. (Speaker)

Activiteit: Toespraak of presentatieAcademisch


Poster presentation: Parents raising infants and toddlers with multiple languages in the home frequently express concerns for their children’s language development (e.g., Piller & Gerber, 2018). Understanding these concerns is important as they may influence parents’ language choices with their children (Braun & Cline, 2010), which – in turn – may influence children’s language outcomes (De Houwer, 2007). Yet, research on the topic is limited and largely focused on one type of context: predominantly monolingual societies (e.g., King & Fogle, 2006). The current study addresses this gap with the first large-scale quantitative analysis of parents’ concerns regarding their children’s multilingual development in a society where multilingualism is the norm, namely the Canadian province of Quebec. In an online questionnaire, 821 Quebec-based parents of infants and toddlers (aged 0-4 years) responded to 9 Likert-scale items (1=don’t agree at all, 5=agree completely) designed to assess parental concerns regarding their children’s multilingual development. Responses were analyzed to investigate 1) the nature of parents’ concerns, i.e., if concerns patterned onto different factors; 2) the strength of these concerns; and 3) whether concern strength varied depending on parent and child characteristics. We hypothesized a) that parent concerns comprise two factors: language environment concerns and language outcomes concerns; b) that language environment concerns are stronger than language outcomes concerns; and c) that certain child and parent characteristics are associated with stronger concerns (Figure 1). Exploratory factor analysis with maximum likelihood factoring revealed that parents’ concerns did indeed pattern onto two factors – but these were different from those we hypothesized (Table 1). Items that patterned onto Factor 1 centered on children’s cognitive difficulties that could result from multilingual exposure, such as confusion and delays, while items loading onto Factor 2 centered on macro-level concerns related to children’s language exposure and outcomes, such as parents’ ability to support children as well as children’s attainment of fluency. Child-centered cognitive concerns (Factor 1) were significantly lower (M=1.7, SD=0.9) than macro-level exposure-outcomes concerns (Factor 2), which were moderate in strength (M=2.3, SD=1.1). The transmission of a heritage language (HL), i.e. a language other than French or English, the societal languages in Quebec, and acquisition of three or more languages were associated with higher levels of concern for both Factor 1 (HL acquisition: r=.13 p<.001; trilingualism: r=.14, p<.001) and Factor 2 (HL acquisition: r=.14, p<.001; trilingualism: r=.11, p<.01). Parents who held less positive attitudes towards the cognitive advantages that multilingualism confer reported higher levels of concern (r=0.14, p<.001). We discuss our findings in terms of their potential for improving support for parents of multilingual infants and toddlers in Quebec as well as their generalizability to other multilingual societies and to predominantly monolingual societies. Lastly, we suggest directions for future research, including an analysis of qualitative data obtained by means of an open-ended item in this questionnaire, which could add further nuance to our knowledge regarding parents’ concerns for their children’s multilingual development.
Periode07 jul. 202210 jul. 2022
Mate van erkenningInternationaal