Journal of Child Language

Measuring productive vocabulary of toddlers in low-income families: concurrent and predictive validity of three sources of data 1

a1 Harvard Graduate School of Education
a2 University of Chicago
a3 New York University

Article author query
alexander pan b   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
rowe ml   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
spier e   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
tamis-lemonda c   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


This study examined parental report as a source of information about toddlers' productive vocabulary in 105 low-income families living in either urban or rural communities. Parental report using the MacArthur Communicative Development Inventory – Short Form (CDI) at child age 2;0 was compared to concurrent spontaneous speech measures and standardized language assessments, and the utility of each source of data for predicting receptive vocabulary at age 3;0 (Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test) was evaluated. Relations between language measures of interest and background variables such as maternal age, education, and race/ethnicity were also considered. Results showed that for the sample as a whole, parental report was moderately associated with other language measures at age 2;0 and accounted for unique variance in PPVT at age 3;0, controlling for child language skills derived from a standard cognitive assessment. However, predictive validity differed by community, being stronger in the rural than in the urban community. Implications of significant differences in background characteristics of mothers in the two sites are discussed.

(Published Online November 4 2004)
(Received June 26 2003)
(Revised December 17 2003)

c1 Barbara Alexander Pan, Larsen Hall, Harvard Graduate School of Education, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA. e-mail:


1 The findings reported here are based on research conducted as part of the national Early Head Start Research and Evaluation Project funded by the Administration for Children, Youth and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services through grants to Harvard University Graduate School of Education and to New York University. The research was conducted in collaboration with Early Education Services in Brattleboro, VT, and The Educational Alliance, two of 17 programmes participating in the national Early Head Start study. The authors are members of the Early Head Start Research Consortium. The Consortium consists of representatives from 17 programmes participating in the evaluation, 15 local research teams, the evaluation contractors, and ACYF. The content of this publication does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Health and Human Services. The authors wish to express their gratitude to their programme partners and to the participating families.