Vocabulary Knowledge Mediates the Link Between Socioeconomic Status and Word Learning in Grade School

Mandy J. Maguire, Julie M. Schneider, Anna E. Middleton, Yvonne Ralph, Michael Lopez, Robert A. Ackerman, Alyson D. Abel. Vocabulary knowledge mediates the link between socioeconomic status and word learning in grade school. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, Volume 166, February 2018, pages 679-695.

This study of 68 children aged 8–15 years looked at whether socioeconomic status is related to word learning in grade school and to what degree vocabulary, reading and working memory might mediate that relationship. Results revealed that differences in vocabulary growth among grade school children of different socioeconomic statuses are likely related to differences in the process of word learning. Specifically, the study found that children of lower socioeconomic status are not as effective at using known vocabulary to build a robust picture or concept of the incoming language and use that to identify the meaning of an unknown word. Reading and working memory were not found to be related. The study also provides potential strategies that may be effective for intervention. For children ages 8 to 15, schools may focus too much on reading and not enough on increasing vocabulary through oral method.

"Oh, magic hour, when a child first knows she can read printed words!" — A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, 1943