What is it about?

Both financial and sociocultural stressors (e.g., immigration, discrimination) uniquely predict Mexican American children's early bilingual vocabulary development. This paper demonstrates how the mechanisms and timing of effects vary by language (Spanish vs. English) and stress types (financial vs. sociocultural). The impact of stress may begin earlier (at age 3) for Spanish (primary language for most) but is unequivocally relevant and harsh for secondary English acquisition at age 4.5 years.

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Why is it important?

Early vocabulary development lays an essential foundation for academic and socioemotional competencies for young children but is vulnerable to the impact of family stress. Despite evidence that family stress affects early vocabulary development in monolingual samples, little is known about whether the family stress processes affecting vocabulary acquisition are similar among dual language learners. Furthermore, although Mexican American families often face stressors related to their ethnic minority and immigrant status, no studies to date have tested whether exposure to sociocultural stressors may likewise have negative consequences for early language acquisition.


Our work has illustrated that financial and sociocultural stressors to which Mexican American (and other Latinx) families are disproportionately exposed are closely linked to maternal functioning and children's early bilingual vocabulary learning. Findings suggest that efforts to offset the impact of family stress on early language development among Latinx American children should ideally begin before or during toddlerhood. Such initiatives should assess various sources of family stress and resources and help increase accessibility of services for families of diverse socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds. Importantly, efforts to enhance children's bilingual outcomes must actively involve culturally sensitive, community-organized programs.

Anna Yeo
University at Albany State University of New York

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This page is a summary of: The integrative model of family stress underlying Spanish and English vocabulary development in Mexican American children: Unique effects of financial and sociocultural hardships., Developmental Psychology, November 2021, American Psychological Association (APA),
DOI: 10.1037/dev0001249.
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