The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children
Annual statistical report 2010

10 Children's language development

Catherine L. Taylor, Curtin Health Innovation Research Institute and the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research
Brigit Maguire, Australian Institute of Family Studies
Stephen R. Zubrick, Curtin Health Innovation Research Institute and the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research

Language development is one of the most important developmental accomplishments of early childhood and is the foundation for literacy, educational achievement and post-school opportunities (Law, Rush, Schoon, & Parsons, 2009). Decades of research have shown that there are striking patterns in the way children acquire language and develop literacy (Shonkoff & Phillips, 2000). This large body of research informs national curriculum standards and benchmarking such as the Australian Early Development Index (AEDI) (Centre for Community Child Health CCCH and Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, 2009) and the National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) (Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority ACARA, 2010). Benchmarking is important for monitoring children's development. Recent educational benchmarking in Australia has shown that, when compared to girls, a greater percentage of boys have lower literacy attainment in Years 3, 5 and 7 (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare AIHW, 2009). Recent national benchmarking of early childhood development in Australia also indicated that a greater percentage of boys are developmentally vulnerable prior to school entry (CCCH and Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, 2009).

Growing Up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC) provides a unique opportunity to enrich our understanding of why there are gender differences in language and literacy attainment in early and middle childhood. In this chapter we take a first step in this enquiry and compare language and literacy outcomes for girls and boys in the first three waves of the study. This sets up opportunities for future studies to investigate relationships between children's individual characteristics (e.g., gender) and characteristics of their home, care, school and community environments that influence their language and literacy abilities over time.

Improving language and literacy standards is an important national goal (AIHW, 2009). LSAC has an important role in identifying, understanding and promoting positive influences on children's language and literacy attainment. The study also has an important role in identifying vulnerable children with the view to improving their developmental outcomes. With this aim in mind, this chapter focuses on the performance of girls and boys in the low range of performance as a starting point for understanding why some children do not perform as well as other children.

10.1 Language assessments: Waves 1-3

The language assessments used in Waves 1-3 are shown in Tables 10.1 and 10.2. These assessments provide multiple perspectives on language and literacy development from multiple informants. In large-scale studies such as LSAC, parent and teacher report is the most expedient way to collect comprehensive information about children's development, and face-to-face assessments are generally shortened to reduce the time involved in giving the assessment. The children's ages when the language assessments were administered are shown in Tables 10.1 and 10.2, and were equivalent for girls and boys. All the language and literacy assessments were given in English, consistent with national benchmarking such as the AEDI and the NAPLAN. At Wave 1, 13% of children in the B cohort and 14% of children in the K cohort were growing up in families whose main language was not English.

Table 10.1 Language assessments, B cohort, Waves 1-3
Assessment Type of assessment a Skills assessed Mean age of girls and boys
(SD: 3 months)
Wave 1
(9 months)
Wave 2
(2 years 10 months)
Wave 3
(4 years 10 months)
CSBS DP
Communication and Symbolic Behavior Scales Developmental Profile: Infant-Toddler Checklist
Parent questionnaire Speech, language, social and cognitive skills X    
PEDS
Parents' Evaluation of Developmental Status: Authorised Australian version
Parent interview Parental concern about expressive and receptive language skills X X  
CDI-3
Macarthur Communicative Development Inventory: Level 3
Parent questionnaire Expressive vocabulary and grammatical skills   X  
Adapted PPVT-III
Adapted Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-III
Face-to-face assessment of the child by an interviewer Receptive vocabulary skills     X
Teacher b ratings of children's expressive and receptive language skills Teacher questionnaire Overall rating of expressive and receptive language skills in relation to other children of the same age     X

Notes: a Parent data reported in this chapter were obtained from the child's primary parent (Parent 1). b Person with primary responsibility for planning and delivering group programs, including long day care and pre-Year 1 school programs.

Table 10.2 Language assessments, K cohort, Waves 1-3
Assessment Type of assessment a Purpose Mean age of girls and boys (SD: 3 months)
Wave 1 (4 years 9 months) Wave 2 (6 years 10 months) Wave 3 (8 years 10 months)
Adapted PPVT-III
Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-III
Face-to-face assessment of the child by an interviewer To assess a child's receptive vocabulary abilities X X X
CCC-2
Children's Communication Checklist-2: Speech, Syntax, Semantics and Coherence Scales
Teacher questionnaire To identify a child for referral to clinical services   X  
Teacher b ratings of children's expressive and receptive language skills Teacher questionnaire To rate a child's expressive and receptive language abilities in relation to other children of the same age known by the teacher X    
PEDS
Parents' Evaluation of Developmental Status: Authorised Australian version
Parent interview To identify a child for referral to clinical services based on parental concern about expressive and receptive language skills X X  
Academic Rating Scale: Language and Literacy Skills, 6-7 years Teacher questionnaire To rate a child's language and literacy skills in relation to other children of the same age known by the teacher   X  
Academic Rating Scale: Language and Literacy Skills, 8-9 years Teacher questionnaire To rate a child's language and literacy skills in relation to other children of the same age known by the teacher     X
Teacher b ratings of language and literacy skills and academic achievement Teacher questionnaire To rate a child's language and literacy skills and academic achievement in relation to other children at the same grade level known by the teacher     X

Notes: a Parent data reported in this chapter were obtained from the child's primary parent (Parent 1). b Person with primary responsibility for planning and delivering group programs, including long day care and pre-Year 1 school programs.

10.2 B cohort

Language development in Wave 1

In Wave 1, the average age of the B cohort children (n = 5,107) was 9 months. Two language assessments were used:

  • the Communication and Symbolic Behavior Scales Developmental Profile: Infant-Toddler Checklist ( CSBS DP) (Wetherby & Prizant, 2001); and
  • the Parents' Evaluation of Developmental Status (PEDS) (Glascoe, 2000).
CSBS DP

The CSBS DP was used to assess early social, language and cognitive skills. The CSBS DP is a screening assessment for children from 6-24 months that is used to identify children at risk for developmental disorders such as Specific Language Impairment, Autism Spectrum Disorder and Intellectual Disability. In large-scale studies such as LSAC, the CSBS DP also provides informative descriptive information about children's early social, language and cognitive skills, as shown in Table 10.3. The CSBS DP asks parents to report if each skill is "not yet", "sometimes" or "often" present. The categories "sometimes" and "often" both mean that the skill is present and Table 10.3 shows the percentage of boys and girls in four age groups whose parents reported that the skills were present.

Table 10.3 Percentage of children who had developed each skill on the CSBS DP across four age groups, B cohort, Wave 1
Skills 6-7 months a 8-9 months 10-11 months > 12 months
Girls
% (n)
95% CI b
Boys
% (n)
95% CI b
Girls
% (n)
95% CI b
Boys
% (n)
95% CI b
Girls
% (n)
95% CI b
Boys
% (n)
95% CI b
Girls
% (n)
95% CI b
Boys
% (n)
95% CI b
Emotion and use of eye gaze
Parent knows when child is happy/upset 100.0 (483)
[-]
99.6 (512)
[98.1-99.9]
99.8 (751)
[99.2-100.0]
99.9 (822)
[99.0-100.0]
98.6 (558)
[96.7-99.4]
99.2 (569)
[97.8-99.7]
99.7 (398)
[97.6-100.0]
99.8 (397)
[98.4-100.0]
When playing, child checks if parent is watching 89.1 (428)
[85.9-91.6]
91.5 (469)
[88.6-93.8]
95.5 (722)
[93.8-96.8]
94.4 (777)
[92.5-95.9]
95.6 (539)
[93.4-97.0]
97.1 (559)
[95.2-98.3]
95.7 (385)
[92.7-97.6]
95.8 (382)
[93.1-97.5]
Child smiles/laughs while looking at parent 100.0 (483)
[-]
99.7 (513)
[97.9-100.0]
99.9 (752)
[99.4-100.0]
100.0 (823)
[-]
99.5 (561)
[97.9-99.9]
100.0 (572)
[-]
100.0 (399)
[-]
99.8 (397)
[98.4-100.0]
Child looks when parent points 75.1 (365)
[71.0-78.8]
76.7 (392)
[72.6-80.3]
87.5 (657)
[84.8-89.8]
90.6 (744)
[88.2-92.6]
93.5 (525)
[91.2-95.3]
94.2 (543)
[91.7-96.0]
98.0 (392)
[95.8-99.1]
97.5 (387)
[95.4-98.6]
Use of communication
Child lets parent know he/she needs help to reach an object that is out of reach 82.6 (403)
[78.5-86.1]
83.6 (428)
[79.8-86.8]
90.3 (683)
[87.6-92.4]
91.2 (751)
[88.9-93.1]
94.5 (533)
[92.3-96.1]
91.9 (532)
[88.9-94.1]
97.7 (390)
[95.6-98.8]
96.4 (383)
[94.0-97.9]
Child tries to get parent's attention when parent is not paying attention to child 91.5 (443)
[88.4-93.8]
94.2 (484)
[91.5-96.0]
95.7 (721)
[93.9-97.0]
96.4 (796)
[94.8-97.6]
97.0 (546)
[95.1-98.2]
96.2 (555)
[93.8-97.7]
98.0 (392)
[95.9-99.1]
98.0 (390)
[96.0-99.0]
Child does things just to make parent laugh 43.8 (214)
[39.0-48.7]
45.9 (230)
[41.3-50.5]
63.8 (477)
[60.0-67.4]
62.0 (500)
[58.2-65.5]
76.4 (422)
[72.5-79.8]
75.3 (434)
[71.2-79.0]
83.9 (335)
[79.7-87.3]
83.5 (333)
[79.4-87.0]
Child tries to get parent to notice interesting objects 22.7 (110)
[18.8-27.1]
22.6 (109)
[18.9-26.7]
36.1 (273)
[32.4-39.9]
36.3 (287)
[32.8-39.9]
52.6 (296)
[47.8-57.3]
51.1 (294)
[46.5-55.7]
73.6 (294)
[68.8-77.9]
71.4 (280)
[66.5-75.8]
Gestures
Child picks up objects and gives them to parent 28.1 (130)
[24.4-32.2]
28.2 (144)
[24.1-32.7]
55.3 (415)
[51.6-59.0]
55.2 (451)
[51.6-58.9]
80.5 (459)
[76.6-83.8]
81.1 (467)
[77.1-84.5]
97.1 (388)
[94.4-98.6]
96.5 (384)
[94.0-97.9]
Child shows parents objects without giving them to parent 32.6 (152)
[28.4-37.1]
30.0 (153)
[26.1-34.2]
55.5 (422)
[51.6-59.4]
53.3 (440)
[49.3-57.2]
74.6 (425)
[70.6-78.2]
75.3 (436)
[71.4-78.8]
89.9 (363)
[86.0-92.8]
91.8 (363)
[88.5-94.3]
Child waves to greet people 17.9 (85)
[14.7-21.7]
13.5 (66)
[10.8-16.9]
53.5 (404)
[49.4-57.5]
41.0 (329)
[37.3-44.7]
77.3 (436)
[73.4-80.7]
71.4 (410)
[66.9-75.5]
90.7 (363)
[87.0-93.4]
83.9 (334)
[79.9-87.3]
Child points to objects 11.3 (53)
[8.6-14.7]
12.2 (63)
[9.4-15.6]
31.5 (242)
[28.0-35.2]
27.9 (219)
[24.8-31.2]
63.6 (355)
[59.4-67.6]
56.6 (327)
[51.9-61.2]
89.4 (358)
[85.9-92.0]
85.8 (343)
[81.5-89.2]
Child nods for yes 3.0 (14)
[1.8-5.1]
3.3 (15)
[2.0-5.4]
10.5 (73)
[8.3-13.1]
9.0 (68)
[6.9-11.6]
28.6 (153)
[24.6-32.9]
19.2 (107)
[16.0-22.9]
44.3 (172)
[39.2-49.5]
36.1 (142)
[31.0-41.5]
Use of sounds
Child uses sounds/words to get attention or help 84.2 (411)
[80.4-87.4]
83.0 (427)
[79.3-86.2]
91.4 (689)
[89.0-93.3]
90.7 (749)
[88.3-92.6]
95.7 (541)
[93.4-97.3]
93.6 (538)
[91.0-95.5]
96.8 (387)
[94.1-98.3]
96.0 (381)
[93.1-97.7]
Child strings sounds together 59.2 (288)
[54.5-63.8]
59.5 (302)
[55.1-63.8]
82.7 (619)
[79.6-85.4]
80.2 (659)
[77.3-82.8]
90.3 (508)
[87.4-92.6]
89.7 (511)
[86.9-92.0]
92.7 (372)
[89.2-95.2]
93.0 (371)
[89.9-95.1]
Child uses consonant sounds 80.1 (402)
[75.9-83.7]
83.6 (437)
[80.1-86.6]
96.2 (726)
[94.5-97.3 ]
96.3 (791)
[94.7-97.4]
99.8 (563)
[99.0-100.0]
99.0 (566)
[97.9-99.5]
99.6 (398)
[98.4-99.9]
98.7 (395)
[96.8-99.5]
Use of words
Child uses one or more words 20.1 (91)
[16.4-24.3]
23.9 (114)
[19.7-28.8]
44.7 (334)
[40.9-48.7 ]
42.4 (334)
[38.9-46.0]
66.7 (371)
[62.5-70.6]
59.1 (342)
[54.7-63.4]
83.2 (334)
[78.7-87.0]
79.6 (320)
[74.8-83.7]
Child puts two words together 2.5 (11)
[1.3-4.5]
1.1 (5)
[0.4-2.7]
4.4 (32)
[3.1-6.1]
4.1 (28)
[2.7-6.1]
9.6 (52)
[7.3-12.4]
8.0 (47)
[6.0-10.6]
22.2 (84)
[18.1-26.9]
20.4 (76)
[16.1-25.5]
Understanding of words
Child responds to his/her name by looking or turning towards parent 96.5 (464)
[94.4-97.8]
94.5 (488)
[92.1-96.3]
98.9 (745)
[97.7-99.5]
98.9 (814)
[98.0-99.5]
99.9 (563)
[99.1-100.0]
99.8 (571)
[99.0-99.9]
99.7 (398)
[98.1-100.0]
98.8 (394)
[96.0-99.6]
Child understands one or more words/phrases without parent using gesture 36.2 (178)
[31.8-40.9]
38.1 (195)
[33.6-42.8]
56.8 (427)
[53.0-60.5]
54.6 (449)
[50.9-58.1]
74.9 (423)
[70.9-78.5]
75.6 (435)
[71.5-79.3]
87.8 (351)
[83.7-91.0]
87.4 (353)
[83.5-90.5]
Use of objects
Child shows interest in playing with a variety of objects 95.2 (463)
[92.5-96.9]
97.9 (505)
[95.8-98.9]
99.4 (748)
[98.6-99.8]
99.0 (815)
[97.9-99.5]
99.5 (561)
[97.7-99.9]
99.3 (569)
[97.9-99.7]
99.7 (398)
[97.9-100.0]
99.8 (397)
[98.4-100.0]
Child uses one or more objects appropriately 63.6 (316)
[59.2-67.9]
65.7 (340)
[61.0-70.1]
83.1 (624)
[80.1-85.6]
84.8 (701)
[82.1-87.2]
93.7 (530)
[91.3-95.5]
94.4 (540)
[92.2-96.0]
99.5 (398)
[98.1-99.9]
98.4 (392)
[96.8-99.2]
Child stacks one or more blocks 4.8 (21)
[3.2-7.2]
7.1 (35)
[5.1-9.9]
13.0 (98)
[10.6-15.8]
13.8 (112)
[11.6-16.4]
37.1 (209)
[33.1-41.3]
35.7 (210)
[31.7-40.0]
65.3 (263)
[60.1-70.2]
69.1 (281)
[63.7-73.9]
Child engages in pretend play with toys 2.4 (12)
[1.4-4.2]
3.7 (16)
[2.1-6.7]
7.5 (52)
[5.7-9.8]
4.7 (31)
[3.2-6.8]
14.6 (80)
[11.6-18.1]
13.8 (78)
[11.2-17.0]
50.9 (200)
[45.4-56.3]
38.1 (149)
[32.6-43.9]

Notes: a The CSBS DP was not given to 570 infants who were aged fewer than 6 months at the time of the Wave 1 interview. b CI = Confidence interval. Confidence intervals were not reported when all infants showed the skill.

Table 10.3 shows which social, language and cognitive skills emerge earlier or later than others. For example, in the "6-7 months" age group, 20% of girls and 24% of boys were reported to use one or more words. In the "12 months and older" age group, 83% of girls and 80% of boys were reported to use one or more words. Waving to greet people is also a later emerging skill. In the "6-7 months" age group, 18% of girls and 14% of boys were waving, compared to 91% of girls and 84% of boys in the "12 months and older" age group.

The 24 items on the CSBS DP shown in Table 10.3 yield a total possible raw score of 57 points. Weighted total raw scores for the whole cohort were computed and a cut-point "above" and "below" the 15th percentile (i.e., 85% of children) was used to divide the cohort into two groups. The percentage of girls and boys who scored below and above the 15th percentile is shown in Table 10.4. A chi-square test was used to assess the association between gender and CSBS DP scores above or below the 15th percentile cut-point and this association was not significant. This means that boys and girls did not differ in terms of the numbers whose CSBS DP scores were above the 15th percentile.

Table 10.4 Percentage of children scoring above and below the 15th percentile for the whole cohort on the CSBS DP Infant-Toddler Checklist, B cohort, Wave 1
  Whole cohort
% (n)
Girls
% (n)
Boys
% (n)
Raw scores below 15th percentile 17.8 (802) 17.5 (421) 17.1 (381)
Raw scores above 15th percentile 82.2 (3,705) 82.5 (1,893) 82.9 (1,812)

Note: χ2(1, n = 4,507) = 0.10, p = .79.

PEDS

The PEDS is a 10-item questionnaire that identifies children for referral to clinical services based on parents' concerns about their child's developmental and behavioural problems. Two of the questions assess parental concerns about expressive and receptive language abilities (see Table 10.5). Two per cent of parents of boys and 1% of parents of girls had some concerns about their child's expressive language abilities and 1% of parents of both boys and girls had some concerns about their child's receptive language abilities. Chi-square tests were used to assess the associations between gender and parental concern about receptive and expressive language abilities and these associations were not significant.

Table 10.5 Percentage of parents with concerns about their child's expressive and receptive language abilities (PEDS), B cohort, Wave 1
  Yes A little No Don't know
Girls
% (n)
[95% CI]
Boys
% (n)
[95% CI]
Girls
% (n)
[95% CI]
Boys
% (n)
[95% CI]
Girls
% (n)
[95% CI]
Boys
% (n)
[95% CI]
Girls
% (n)
[95% CI]
Boys
% (n)
[95% CI]
Concerns about how child talks and makes speech sounds 1 (19)
[0-1]
1 (28)
[1-2]
1 (26)
[1-2]
2 (37)
[1-2]
98 (2,446)
[97-99]
97 (2,541)
[96-98]
0 (5)
[0-1]
0 (3)
[0-1]
Concerns about how child understands what you say 1 (23)
[1-2]
1 (22)
[1-1]
1 (19)
[1-1]
1 (25)
[1-2]
98 (2,442)
[97-98]
98 (2,549)
[97-98]
1 (12)
[0-1]
0 (13)
[0-1]

Notes: Expressive language: χ2(3, n = 5,105) = 5.80, p = .15; Receptive language: χ2(3, n = 5,105) = 1.55, p = .67.

Language development in Wave 2

In Wave 2, the average age of the B cohort children was 2 years and 10 months. Two language assessments were used:

  • the Macarthur Communicative Development Inventory: Level 3 (CDI-3) (Fenson et al., 2006); and
  • the PEDS.
CDI-3

The CDI-3 was developed for children aged 30-37 months. Two of the three CDI-3 scales were used: the Vocabulary Scale and the Grammar Scale. The Vocabulary Scale assesses children's expressive vocabulary and is a 100-word checklist that assesses vocabulary complexity, not vocabulary size. The Vocabulary Scale that was used in LSAC consisted of 98 words; 95 of the original 100 words and 3 words that were substituted for words that are commonly used in Australia ("kangaroo" for "reindeer", "biscuit" for "cracker", "footpath" for "sidewalk"). This Vocabulary Checklist yielded a total possible raw score of 98. The Grammar Scale consists of 12 sentence pairs (e.g., "Daddy, pick me up" and "Daddy picked me up") and parents are asked to select the sentence that sounds most like the way their child talks. The Grammar Scale yielded a total possible raw score of 12.

Weighted total raw scores for the whole cohort were computed for the Vocabulary Scale and the Grammar Scale and, once again, the cut-point "above" and "below" the 15th percentile (i.e., 85% of children) was used to divide the cohort into two groups. The percentage of girls and boys who scored above and below the 15th percentile is shown in Table 10.6. Chi-square tests were used to assess the association between gender and CDI-3 scores above or below the 15th percentile. These associations were significant: 18% of boys compared to 12% of girls scored below the 15th percentile on the Vocabulary Scale and 26% of boys compared to 15% of girls scored below the 15th percentile on the Grammar Scale.

Table 10.6 Percentage of children scoring above and below the 15th percentile for the whole cohort on the Macarthur CDI-3, B cohort, Wave 2
  Girls % (n) Boys % (n)
Expressive vocabulary
Raw score below 15th percentile 12.0 (185) 18.2 (306)
Raw score above 15th percentile 88.0 (1,514) 81.8 (1,464)
Grammar
Raw score below 15th percentile 15.0 (235) 25.7 (426)
Raw score above 15th percentile 85.0 (1,447) 74.3 (1,311)

Notes: Expressive vocabulary: χ2(1, n = 3,469) = 25.30, p < .01; Grammar: χ2(1, n = 3,419) = 60.40, p < .01. Percentages may not total 100% due to rounding.

PEDS

The PEDS was given again in Wave 2 (see Table 10.7). Chi-square tests were used to assess the associations between gender and parental concerns about expressive and receptive language abilities. The associations were significant. Twenty-one per cent of parents of boys, compared to 14% of parents of girls, had some concerns about how their child talked. Nine per cent of parents of boys and 4% of parents of girls had some concerns about their child's understanding of language.

Table 10.7 Percentage of parents with concerns about their child's expressive and receptive language abilities (PEDS), B cohort, Wave 2
  Yes A little No Don't know
Girls
% (n)
[95% CI]
Boys
% (n)
[95% CI]
Girls
% (n)
[95% CI]
Boys
% (n)
[95% CI]
Girls
% (n)
[95% CI]
Boys
% (n)
[95% CI]
Girls
% (n)
[95% CI]
Boys
% (n)
[95% CI]
Concerns about how child talks and makes speech sounds 4 (75)
[3-5]
6 (130)
[5-7]
10 (208)
[8-11]
15 (343)
[14-17]
86 (1,908)
[85-88]
79 (1,813)
[77-81]
0 (5)
[0-1]
0 (8)
[0-1]
Concerns about how child understands what you say 1 (28)
[1-2]
3 (53)
[2-4]
3 (69)
[3-4]
6 (117)
[5-7]
95 (2,082)
[94-96]
92 (2,111)
[90-93]
0 (8)
[0-1]
0 (7)
[0-1]

Notes: Expressive language: χ2(3, n = 4,490) = 48.20, p < .01; Receptive language: χ2(3, n = 4,604) = 21.13, p < .01. Percentages may not total 100% due to rounding.

Language development in Wave 3

In Wave 3, the average age of the B cohort children was 4 years and 10 months. Two language assessments were used:

  • the Adapted Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-III (Adapted PPVT-III) (Rothman, 2003); and
  • teacher judgements of the children's expressive and receptive language abilities in relation to other children of the same age known by the teacher.
Adapted PPVT-III

The original PPVT-III was designed for use with children from 2 years 6 months up to adults (Dunn, Dunn, & Williams, 1997) and assesses a person's knowledge about the meaning of spoken words. People taking the test are asked to select a picture from a set of four that most closely matches the meaning of the stimulus word spoken by the examiner. The Adapted PPVT-III is a shortened form of the original test that yielded a scaled score with a mean of 64.2 (SD 8). Weighted scaled scores for the whole cohort were computed for the Adapted PPVT-III and the cut-point "below" and "above" the 15th percentile (i.e., 85% of children) was used to divide the cohort into two groups (see Table 10.8). A chi-square test was used to assess the association between gender and receptive vocabulary and this was significant: 18% of boys compared to 14% of girls scored below the 15th percentile.

Table 10.8 Percentage of children who scored above and below the 15th percentile for the whole cohort on the Adapted PPVT-lll, B cohort, Wave 3
  Whole cohort
% (n)
Girls
% (n)
Boys
% (n)
Scaled score below 15th percentile 16.0 (533) 14.3 (223) 17.8 (310)
Scaled score above 15th percentile 84.0 (3,733) 85.7 (1,871) 82.2 (1,862)

Notes: χ2(1, n = 4,266) = 9.52, p < .05. Percentages may not total 100% due to rounding.

Teacher ratings of the children's expressive and receptive language abilities in relation to other children of the same age

Teacher ratings of the children's expressive and receptive language abilities1 were assessed using a self-complete questionnaire. The teachers rated the B cohort children's expressive and receptive language skills in relation to other children of the same age using a four-point ordinal scale (1 = "more competent than others", 2 = "as competent as others", 3 = "less competent than others", 4 = "much less competent than others"). The percentage of girls and boys in each category is reported in Table 10.9. Table 10.9 shows a higher percentage of boys compared to girls in the "less competent" and "much less competent" categories for both expressive and receptive language skills. Chi-square tests were used to assess the associations between gender and teacher ratings of expressive and receptive language abilities and these associations were significant. Twenty-six per cent of boys, compared to 17% of girls, were rated as "less" or "much less" competent in expressive language than other children of the same age known by the teacher. Twenty-one per cent of boys, compared to 12% of girls, were rated as "less" or "much less" competent in receptive language abilities than other children of the same age known by the teacher.

Table 10.9 Teacher ratings of children's expressive and receptive language skills in relation to other children of the same age, B cohort, Wave 3
  Much less competent Less competent As competent More competent
Girls
% (n)
[95% CI]
Boys
% (n)
[95% CI]
Girls
% (n)
[95% CI]
Boys
% (n)
[95% CI]
Girls
% (n)
[95% CI]
Boys
% (n)
[95% CI]
Girls
% (n)
[95% CI]
Boys
% (n)
[95% CI]
Expressive language skills (e.g., using language effectively, ability to communicate ideas) 4 (53)
[3-6]
7 (109)
[6-9]
13 (182)
[11-15]
19 (307)
[17-21]
57 (941)
[54-60]
54 (948)
[51-56]
26 (469)
[24-29]
20 (362)
[18-22]
Receptive language skills (e.g., understanding, interpreting and listening) 2 (29)
[1-3]
4 (57)
[3-5]
10 (138)
[8-12]
17 (271)
[16-19]
60 (988)
[57-63]
59 (1,046)
[57-61]
28 (491)
[26-30]
20 (353)
[18-22]

Notes: Expressive language: χ2(3, n = 3,371) = 51.63, p < .01; Receptive language: χ2(3, n = 3,373) = 65.31, p < .01.

10.3 K cohort

Language development in Wave 1

In Wave 1, the average age of the K cohort children (n = 4,983) was 4 years and 9 months. Three language assessments were used:

  • the Adapted PPVT-III;
  • teacher ratings of the children's expressive and receptive language abilities in relation to other children of the same age; and
  • the PEDS.
Adapted PPVT-III

The Adapted PPVT-III was used to assess receptive vocabulary. Weighted scaled scores for the whole cohort were computed and the cut-point "below" and "above" the 15th percentile (i.e., 85% of children) was used to divide the cohort into two groups (see Table 10.10). A chi-square test was used to assess the association between gender and Adapted PPVT-III scores above and below the 15th percentile and this association was significant: 20% of boys compared to 16% of girls scored below the 15th percentile on the Adapted PPVT-III.

Table 10.10 Percentage of children who scored above and below the 15th percentile for the whole cohort on the PPVT-lll, K cohort, Wave 1
  Whole cohort
% (n)
Girls
% (n)
Boys
% (n)
Scaled score below the 15th percentile 17.7 (724) 15.7 (309) 19.6 (415)
Scaled score above 15th percentile 82.3 (3,682) 84.3 (1,865) 80.4 (1,817)

Note: χ2(1, n = 4,406) = 11.66, p < .01.

Teacher ratings of the children's expressive and receptive language abilities in relation to other children of the same age

Teacher ratings of the children's expressive and receptive language abilities were obtained in the same way as previously described for the B cohort. Teachers were asked to rate the children's expressive and receptive language skills in relation to other children the same age using a four-point ordinal scale (1 = "more competent than others", 2 = "as competent as others", 3 = "less competent than others", 4 = "much less competent than others") (see Table 10.11). Chi-square tests were used to assess the association between gender and teacher ratings of expressive and receptive language skills for girls and boys, and these associations were significant. Twenty-seven per cent of boys, compared to 18% of girls, were rated as "less" or "much less" competent in expressive language than other children of the same age known by the teacher. Twenty-two per cent of boys, compared to 13% of girls were rated as "less" or "much less" competent in receptive language abilities than other children of the same age known by the teacher.

Table 10.11 Teacher ratings of children's expressive and receptive language skills in relation to other children the same age, K cohort, Wave 1
  Much less competent Less competent As competent More competent
Girls
% (n)
[95% CI]
Boys
% (n)
[95% CI]
Girls
% (n)
[95% CI]
Boys
% (n)
[95% CI]
Girls
% (n)
[95% CI]
Boys
% (n)
[95% CI]
Girls
% (n)
[95% CI]
Boys
% (n)
[95% CI]
Expressive language skills (e.g., using language effectively, ability to communicate ideas) 5 (72)
[4-6]
9 (127)
[7-10]
13 (184)
[11-15]
18 (294)
[16-2]
55 (862)
[52-57]
50 (829)
[48-53]
28 (465)
[26-31]
23 (391)
[21-26]
Receptive language skills (e.g., understanding, interpreting and listening) 3 (37)
[2-4]
6 (84)
[4-7]
10 (148)
[9-12]
16 (248)
[14-18]
59 (930)
[56-61]
56 (912)
[53-59]
29 (469)
[26-31]
23 (397)
[21-26]

Notes: Expressive language: χ2(3, n = 3,224) = 45.49, p < .01; Receptive language: χ2(3, n = 3,225) = 47.72, p < .01. Percentages may not total 100% due to rounding.

PEDS

The PEDS was given in Wave 1 (see Table 10.12). Chi-square tests were used to assess the association between gender and parental concerns about expressive and receptive language abilities. These associations were significant. Thirty-two per cent of parents of boys, compared to 18% of parents of girls, had concerns about how their child talked and made speech sounds. Twelve per cent of parents of boys and 7% of parents of girls were concerned about their child's understanding of language.

Table 10.12 Percentage of parents with concerns about their child's expressive and receptive language abilities (PEDS), K cohort, Wave 1
  Yes A little No Don't know
Girls
% (n)
[95% CI]
Boys
% (n)
[95% CI]
Girls
% (n)
[95% CI]
Boys
% (n)
[95% CI]
Girls
% (n)
[95% CI]
Boys
% (n)
[95% CI]
Girls
% (n)
[95% CI]
Boys
% (n)
[95% CI]
Concerns about how child talks and makes speech sounds 8 (198)
[7-10]
15 (375)
[14-17]
10 (241)
[9-12]
17 (404)
[15-18]
82 (2,005)
[80-83]
68 (1,757)
[66-70]
0 (2)
[-]
0 (1)
[-]
Concerns about how child understands what you say 3 (69)
[2-4]
6 (138)
[5-7]
4 (90)
[3-5]
6 (148)
[5-7]
93 (2,285)
[92-94]
88 (2,250)
[87-89]
0 (2)
[-]
0 (1)
[-]

Notes: Expressive language: χ2(3, n = 4,983) = 117.85, p < .01; Receptive language: χ2(3, n = 4,983) = 39.68, p < .01.

Language development in Wave 2

In Wave 2, the average age of the K cohort children was 6 years 10 months. Four language assessments used were used:

  • the Adapted PPVT-III;
  • the Children's Communication Checklist-2 (CCC-2) (Bishop, 2003);
  • the Academic Rating Scale: Language and Literacy Skills for 6-7 year olds (Rock & Pollack, 2002); and
  • the PEDS.
Adapted PPVT-III

The Adapted PPVT-III was used to assess receptive vocabulary. Weighted scaled scores for the whole cohort were computed and the cut-point "below" and "above" the 15th percentile (i.e., 85% of children) was used to divide the cohort into two groups (see Table 10.13). A chi-square test was used to assess the association between gender and Adapted PPVT-III scores above and below the 15th percentile. This association was significant: 20% of boys and 19% of girls scored below the 15th percentile on the Adapted PPVT-III.

Table 10.13 Percentage of children who scored above and below the 15th percentile for the whole cohort on the PPVT-lll, K cohort, Wave 2
  Whole cohort
% (n)
Girls
% (n)
Boys
% (n)
Scaled score below 15th percentile 19.6 (747) 19.0 (354) 20.1 (393)
Scaled score above 15th percentile 80.4 (3570) 81.0 (1759) 79.9 (1811)

Note: χ2(1, n = 4,317) = 0.85, p < .05.

CCC-2

The CCC-2 consists of 10 scales with seven items each: five items describing language difficulties and two items describing language skills. In LSAC, the Speech, Syntax, Semantics and Coherence Scales were given. These scales assess the structural dimensions of children's language. An example of an item on the Syntax Scale that describes a language difficulty is "Leaves off past tense -ed endings on words ...". An example of an item on the Syntax Scale that describes a language skill is "Produces long and complicated sentences ...". The CCC-2 is designed for children aged 4-16 years and can be completed by a parent or a teacher who judges the frequency of each language difficulty/skill on a 4-point ordinal scale (0 = "less than once a week (or never)"; 1 = "at least once a week, but not every day"; 2 = "once or twice a day"; 3 = "several times (more than twice) a day (or always)". Therefore, the raw scores on each scale range from 0-21 and 0-63 for the four scales combined. High scores on the CCC-2 are indicative of language difficulties.

Weighted total raw scores for the four scales for the whole cohort were computed and a cut-point "above" and "below" the 15th percentile (i.e., 85% of children) was used to divide the cohort into two groups. The percentage of girls and boys who scored below and above the 15th percentile are shown in Table 10.14. A chi-square test was used to assess the association between gender and a CCC-2 score above or below the 15th percentile for the whole cohort. This association was significant: 16% of boys and 12% of girls scored below the 15th percentile for the whole cohort.

Table 10.14 Percentage of children who scored above and below the 15th percentile on the CCC-2, K cohort, Wave 2
  Whole cohort
% (n)
Girls
% (n)
Boys
% (n)
Raw scores below 15th percentile 14.1 (423) 11.5 (166) 16.4 (257)
Raw scores above the 15th percentile 85.9 (3,021) 88.5 (1,506) 83.6 (1,515)

Notes: χ2(1, n = 3,444) = 17.36, p < .01. Percentages may not total 100% due to rounding.

Academic Rating Scale: Language and Literacy Skills, 6-7 years

The Academic Rating Scale (ARS): Language and Literacy Skills, 6-7 years was used to assess children's language and literacy abilities in relation to other children of the same age. The scale was adapted for use in Australian schools (Rothman, 2009). The scale consisted of 10 language and literacy skills and teachers were asked to judge the child's proficiency with each skill on a five-point ordinal scale (1 = "not yet"; 2 = "beginning"; 3 = "in progress"; 4 = "intermediate"; and 5 = "proficient") (see Table 10.15). Chi-square tests were used to assess the association between gender and each of the language and literacy skills. Boys were at earlier stages (i.e., "not yet" or "beginning") than girls in language and literacy attainment, with the exception of "contributing relevant information to classroom discussions".

Table 10.15 Teacher ratings of children's language and literacy skills in relation to other children of the same age on the ARS: Language and Literacy Scale, K cohort, Wave 2
  Not yet Beginning In progress Intermediate Proficient Not applicable
Girls
% (n)
[95% CI]
Boys
% (n)
[95% CI]
Girls
% (n)
[95% CI]
Boys
% (n)
[95% CI]
Girls
% (n)
[95% CI]
Boys
% (n)
[95% CI]
Girls
% (n)
[95% CI]
Boys
% (n)
[95% CI]
Girls
% (n)
[95% CI]
Boys
% (n)
[95% CI]
Girls
% (n)
[95% CI]
Boys
% (n)
[95% CI]
Contributes relevant info a 2 (26)
[1-3]
3 (46)
[2-4]
11 (191)
[10-13]
13 (224)
[12-15]
20 (323)
[18-22]
19 (321)
[17-20]
31 (557)
[29-33]
30 (552)
[28-32]
36 (696)
[34-39]
35 (679)
[33-38]
0 (3)
[0-1]
0 (4)
[0-1]
Understands and interprets a story b 1 (20)
[1-2]
3 (44)
[2-4]
9 (138)
[7-10]
12 (198)
[11-14
16 (268)
[15-18]
20 (353)
[18-22]
36 (627)
[33-3]8
32 (588)
[30-34]
38 (733)
[36-40]
33 (635)
[30-35]
0 (6)
[0-1]
0 (5)
[0-1]
Reads words with regular vowels c 3 (49)
[2-4]
6 (108)
[5-8]
9 (136)
[7-10]
12 (200)
[10-14]
15 (260)
[14-17]
17 (304)
[15-19]
25 (438)
[23-27]
24 (432)
[22-26]
48 (897)
[45-51]
41 (770)
[38-43]
1 (8)
[0-1]
0 (7)
[0-1]
Reads words with irregular vowels d 10 (156)
[8-11]
15 (257)
[13-17]
12 (202)
[10-14]
15 (256)
[13-16]
20 (353)
[18-22]
21 (387)
[19-24]
30 (530)
[28-32]
23 (420)
[21-25]
28 (531)
[26-31]
25 (468)
[23-28]
1 (11)
[0-1]
1 (26)
[1-2]
Reads age-appropriate books e 3 (51)
[3-4]
6 (100)
[5-8]
9 (137)
[7-10]
12 (205)
[10-14]
14 (243)
[13-16]
17 (299)
[15-19]
28 (489)
[26-30]
27 (474)
[24-29]
46 (867)
[43-48]
38 (731)
[36-41]
0 (5)
[0-1]
1 (12)
[0-1]
Reads age-appropriate books fluently f 6 (99)
[5-8]
11 (180)
[9-13]
9 (148)
[8-11]
12 (203)
[10-14]
16 (284)
[14-18]
18 (317)
[16-19]
28 (478)
[25-30]
26 (473)
[24-28]
41 (774)
[39-43]
33 (633)
[31-36]
0 (5)
[0-1]
1 (13)
[0-1]
Writes sentences with more than one clause g 7 (111)
[6-8]
12 (198)
[10-14]
11 (186)
[10-13]
16 (273)
[14-17]
22 (386)
[20-24]
25 (431)
[22-27]
31 (566)
[29-34]
28 (515)
[25-30]
28 (523)
[25-30]
20 (374)
[17-22]
1 (16)
[1-2]
1 (27)
[1-2]
Composes a story with a clear beginning, middle and end h 8 (123)
[6-9]
14 (239)
[12-17]
13 (230)
[12-15]
17 (301)
[15-19]
25 (420)
[22-27]
26 (461)
[23-28]
31 (566)
[28-33]
28 (522)
[25-30]
22 (418)
[20-24]
13 (254)
[12-15]
2 (30)
[1-3]
2 (35)
[1-2]
Understands some print conventions i 8 (124)
[7-9]
13 (212)
[11-15]
14 (255)
[13-16]
21 (373)
[19-23]
28 (482)
[25-30]
27 (482)
[24-29]
33 (603)
[30-35]
26 (482)
[24-29]
17 (316)
[15-19]
12 (236)
[10-14]
1 (15)
[1-2]
2 (34)
[1-2]
Uses computer for variety of purposes j 8 (138)
[7-10]
10 (173)
[9-12]
21 (358)
[19-24]
21 (366)
[19-23]
27 (484)
[25-29]
27 (477)
[25-30]
29 (536)
[27-31]
24 (456)
[22-26]
10 (192)
[9-12]
12 (233)
[11-14]
4 (73)
[3-5]
5 (100)
[4-7]

Notes: a Contributes relevant info: χ2(5, n = 3,622) = 10.22, p = .13. b Understands and interprets a story: χ2(5, n = 3,615) = 38.00, p < .01. c Reads words with regular vowels: χ2(5, n = 3,609) = 45.39, p < .01. d Reads words with irregular vowels: χ2(5, n = 3,597) = 53.12, p < .01. e Reads age-appropriate books: χ2(5, n = 3,613) = 45.29, p < .01. f Reads age-appropriate books fluently: χ2(5, n = 3,607) = 47.51, p < .01. g Writes sentences with more than one clause: χ2(5, n = 3,606) = 67.80, p < .01. h Composes a story with a clear beginning, middle and end: χ2(5, n = 3,599) = 85.34, p < .01. i Understands some print conventions: χ2(5, n = 3,614) = 72.91, p < .01. j Uses computer for variety of purposes: χ2(5, n = 3,586) = 17.43, p < .01.

PEDS

The PEDS was given again in Wave 2 (see Table 10.16). Chi-square tests were used to assess the associations between gender and parental concerns about expressive and receptive language abilities. The associations were significant. Twenty-one per cent of parents of boys, compared to 12% of parents of girls, had some concerns about how their child talked. Twelve per cent of parents of boys and 9% of parents of girls had some concerns about their child's understanding of language.

Table 10.16 Percentage of parents with concerns about their child's expressive and receptive language abilities (PEDS), K cohort, Wave 2
  Yes A little No Don't know
Girls
% (n)
[95% CI]
Boys
% (n)
[95% CI]
Girls
% (n)
[95% CI]
Boys
% (n)
[95% CI]
Girls
% (n)
[95% CI]
Boys
% (n)
[95% CI]
Girls
% (n)
[95% CI]
Boys
% (n)
[95% CI]
Concerns about how child talks and makes speech sounds 5 (94)
[4-6]
8 (169)
[7-10]
7 (150)
[6-9]
13 (267)
[11-14]
88 (1,885)
[86-89]
79 (1,780)
[77-81]
0 (0)
[-]
0 (4)
[0-1]
Concerns about how child understands what you say 4 (75)
[3-5]
5 (99)
[4-7]
5 (89)
[4-6]
7 (149)
[6-8]
91 (1,961)
[90-93]
88 (1,969)
[86-89]
0 (3)
[0-1]
0 (5)
[0-1]

Notes: Expressive language: χ2(3, n = 4,349) = 63.44, p < .01; Receptive language: χ2(3, n = 4,350) = 15.92, p < .01. Confidence intervals were not reported for cells containing no observations.

Language development in Wave 3

In Wave 3, the average age of the K cohort children was 8 years 10 months. Three language assessments were used:

  • the Adapted PPVT-III;
  • the Academic Rating Scale: Language and Literacy Skills for 8-9 year olds (Pollack, Rock, Weiss, & Atkins-Burnett, 2005); and
  • teacher ratings of children's language and literacy skills and academic achievement.
Adapted PPVT-III

The Adapted PPVT-III was used to assess receptive vocabulary. Weighted scaled scores for the whole cohort were computed and the cut-point "below" and "above" the 15th percentile (i.e., 85% of children) was used to divide the cohort into two groups (see Table 10.17). A chi-square test was used to assess the association between gender and receptive vocabulary and this association was not significant: 15% of boys and girls scored below the 15th percentile on the Adapted PPVT-III.

Table 10.17 Percentage of children who scored above and below the 15th percentile for the whole cohort on the PPVT-lll, K cohort, Wave 3
  Whole cohort
% (n)
Girls
% (n)
Boys
% (n)
Scaled score below 15th percentile 15.0 (541) 14.7 (260) 15.3 (281)
Scaled score above 15th percentile 85.0 (3,732) 85.3 (1,834) 84.7 (1,898)

Note: χ2(1, n = 4,273) = 0.30, p = .63.

Academic Rating Scale: Language and Literacy Skills, 8-9 years

The Academic Rating Scale (ARS): Language and Literacy Skills, 8-9 years was used to assess children's language and literacy abilities in relation to other children of the same age. The scale was adapted for use in Australian schools (Rothman, 2009). The scale consisted of nine language and literacy skills and teachers were asked to judge the child's proficiency with each skill on a five-point ordinal scale (1 = "not yet"; 2 = "beginning"; 3 = "in progress"; 4 = "intermediate"; and 5 = "proficient") (see Table 10.18). Chi-square tests were used to assess the association between gender and each language and literacy skill and these associations were significant, with the exception of computer use. This indicated that a higher percentage of boys compared to girls were at an earlier stage in the development of language and literacy skills, except for computer use.

Table 10.18 Teacher ratings of children's language and literacy skills in relation to other children of the same age on the ARS: Language and Literacy Scale, K cohort, Wave 3
  Not yet Beginning In progress Intermediate Proficient Not applicable
Girls
% (n)
[95% CI]
Boys
% (n)
[95% CI]
Girls
% (n)
[95% CI]
Boys
% (n)
[95% CI]
Girls
% (n)
[95% CI]
Boys
% (n)
[95% CI]
Girls
% (n)
[95% CI]
Boys
% (n)
[95% CI]
Girls
% (n)
[95% CI]
Boys
% (n)
[95% CI]
Girls
% (n)
[95% CI]
Boys
% (n)
[95% CI]
Conveys ideas when speaking a 1 (17)
[1-2]
2 (34)
[2-3]
8 (115)
[6-9]
11 (181)
[10-13]
17 (280)
[15-19]
23 (387)
[21-25]
36 (611)
[33-38]
36 (674)
[33-38]
38 (706)
[35-41]
28 (572)
[26-31]
0 (5)
[0-1]
0 (5)
[0-1]
Use strategies to gain info from print b 2 (31)
[2-3]
3 (55)
[3-4]
9 (139)
[8-11]
12 (190)
[10-14]
20 (329)
[18-22]
23 (403)
[21-25]
36 (630)
[34-39]
34 (637)
[31-36]
32 (597)
[30-35]
28 (553)
[26-30]
0 (7)
[0-1]
1 (9)
[0-1]
Reads fluently c 2 (32)
[1-3]
5 (80)
[4-6]
9 (139)
[8-11]
11 (177)
[9-13]
16 (281)
[15-19]
21 (375)
[19-23]
30 (505)
[28-33]
28 (527)
[26-30]
41 (768)
[39-44]
35 (689)
[32-37]
0 (3)
[0-1]
0 (5)
[0-1]
Reads grade-level books d 3 (43)
[2-5]
5 (76)
[4-6]
8 (117)
[6-9]
11 (177)
[9-12]
15 (244)
[13-17]
18 (319)
[17-21]
30 (506)
[28-32]
29 (531)
[27-31]
4 (820)
[42-47]
37 (744)
[35-40]
0 (4)
[0-1]
0 (5)
[0-1]
Comprehends informational text e 4 (62)
[3-6]
6 (92)
[5-8]
10 (159)
[9-12]
14 (230)
[12-16]
20 (341)
[18-23]
21 (373)
[19-23]
36 (631)
[34-39]
33 (623)
[30-35]
29 (529)
[26-31]
26 (515)
[24-28]
0 (8)
[0-1]
1 (15)
[1-1]
Composes multi-paragraph texts f 4 (59)
[3-6]
8 (132)
[7-10]
11 (182)
[9-13]
17 (285)
[15-19]
24 (385)
[21-26]
30 (541)
[28-32]
38 (673)
[36-41]
31 (617)
[29-34]
22 (416)
[20-24]
13 (262)
[12-15]
1 (11)
[0-1]
1 (14)
[0-1]
Redrafts writing g 7 (98)
[5-8]
12 (190)
[10-14]
13 (210)
[11-15]
21 (362)
[19-24]
30 (510)
[28-32]
31 (585)
[29-34]
35 (633)
[32-37]
27 (529)
[25-29]
15 (271)
[13-17]
8 (175)
[7-10]
0 (6)
[0-1]
0 (10)
[0-1]
Makes editorial corrections h 6 (88)
[5-7]
11 (177)
[9-13]
16 (253)
[14-18]
24 (404)
[22-26
29 (500)
[27-32]
31 (589)
[29-33]
35 (622)
[32-37]
27 (530)
[25-29]
14 (262)
[12-16]
7 (146)
[6-8]
0 (6)
[0-1]
0 (6)
[0-1]
Uses computer for variety of purposes i 2 (26)
[1-3]
3 (46)
[2-4]
11 (174)
[10-13]
4 (223)
[12-16]
24 (390)
[22-26]
23 (419)
[21-25]
38 (686)
[35-41
38 (717)
[36-41]
23 (414)
[21-25]
21 (416)
[19-23]
2 (38)
[1-3]
1 (26)
[1-2]

 

Teacher ratings of language and literacy skills and academic achievement in relation to other children at the same grade level

In Wave 3, teachers were also asked to make an overall judgement of children's language and literacy skills and academic achievement in relation to other children at the same grade level using a 5-point ordinal scale (1 = "far below average"; 2 = "below average"; 3 = "average"; 4 = "above average"; 5 = "far above average"). Chi-square tests were used to assess the association between gender and language and literacy skills and academic achievement, and these associations were significant. Twenty-eight per cent of boys compared to 19% of girls were judged as "far below average" or "below average" in language and literacy skills. Twenty-one per cent of boys compared to 16% of girls were rated as "far below average" or "below average" on overall academic achievement (Table 10.19).

Table 10.19 Teacher ratings of children's language and literacy skills and academic achievement in relation to other children at the same grade level, K cohort, Wave 3
  Far below average Below average Average Above average Far above average
Girls
% (n)
[95% CI]
Boys
% (n)
[95% CI]
Girls
% (n)
[95% CI]
Boys
% (n)
[95% CI]
Girls
% (n)
[95% CI]
Boys
% (n)
[95% CI]
Girls
% (n)
[95% CI]
Boys
% (n)
[95% CI]
Girls
% (n)
[95% CI]
Boys
% (n)
[95% CI]
Language and literacy skills 4 (51)
[3-5]
6 (98)
[5-7]
15 (244)
[13-17]
22 (366)
[20-24]
42 (711)
[40-45]
42 (767)
[40-44]
34 (632)
[32-37]
27 (543)
[25-29]
5 (95)
[4-6]
3 (71)
[3-4]
Academic achievement 3 (42)
[2-5]
5 (70)
[4-6]
13 (210)
[12-15]
16 (264)
[14-19]
48 (812)
[46-51]
49 (889)
[46-51]
32 (586)
[30-34]
28 (552)
[26-30]
3 (59)
[2-4]
3 (63)
[2-4]

Notes: Language and literacy: χ2(4, n = 3,578) = 50.10, p < .01; Overall academic achievement: χ2(4, n = 3,547) = 13.52, p < .05. Percentages may not total 100% due to rounding.

10.4 Key findings and future opportunities

The finding that boys were over-represented in the low range of performance on almost all the language and literacy assessments at all ages, except in infancy, provides a compelling direction for future studies to explain these gender differences in language and literacy abilities. It will be important to examine the extent to which girls and boys stay in the low range of performance over time and to understand the relationship between individual, home, care, school and community characteristics on continuity and change in language and literacy attainment over time. It will also be important to investigate the relationship between children's language and literacy abilities and other aspects of development such as social skills and behaviour. The ultimate goal is to understand why language and literacy trajectories vary for some children and how these trajectories can be altered to improve developmental outcomes for vulnerable children.

10.5 Further reading

  • Brinkman, S., Silburn, S., Lawrence, D., & the Australian Early Development Index Partnership. (2006). Construct and concurrent validity of the Australian Early Development Index: A report to the Technical Advisory Group for the Australian Early Development Index Building Better Communities for Children Project. West Perth: Telethon Institute for Child Health Research and Centre for Community Child Health.
  • Brown, J. E., Bittman, M., & Nicholson, J. (2007). Time or money: The impact of parental employment on time that 4 to 5 year olds spend in language building activities. Australian Journal of Labour Economics, 10, 149-165.

10.6 References

  • Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority. (2010). National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy. Melbourne: ACARA.
  • Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2009). A picture of Australia's children (Cat. no. PHE 112). Canberra: AIHW.
  • Bishop, D. V. M. (2003). The Children's Communication Checklist (CCC-2) (2nd ed.). London: Harcourt Assessment.
  • Centre for Community Child Health, & Telethon Institute for Child Health Research. (2009). A snapshot of early childhood development in Australia: Australian Early Development Index (AEDI). National Report 2009. Canberra: Australian Government.
  • Dunn, L. M., Dunn, L. M., & Williams, K. T. (1997). Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-III. Circle Pines, MN: American Guidance Service.
  • Fenson, L., Marchman, V. A., Thal, D. J., Dale, P. S., Reznik, J. S., & Bates, E. (2006). MacArthur-Bates Communicative Development Inventories (CDIs) (2nd ed.). Baltimore: Brookes.
  • Glascoe, P. F. (2000). Parents' Evaluation of Developmental Status: Authorised Australian version. Parkville, Vic.: Centre for Community Child Health.
  • Law, J., Rush, R., Schoon, I., & Parsons, S. (2009). Modeling developmental language difficulties from school entry into adulthood: Literacy, mental health, and employment outcomes. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 52, 1401-1416.
  • Pollack, J. M., Rock, D. A., Weiss, M. J., & Atkins-Burnett, S. (2005). Early Childhood Longitudinal Study: Kindergarten class of 1998-99 (ECLS-K). Psychometric report for the third grade (NCES No. 2005-62). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, Department of Education.
  • Rock, D. A., & Pollack, J. M. (2002). Early Childhood Longitudinal Study: Kindergarten class of 1998-99 (ECLS-K). Psychometric report for kindergarten through first grade (NCES No. 2002-05). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, Department of Education.
  • Rothman, S. (2003). An Australian version of the Adapted PPVT-III for use in research. Unpublished paper. Melbourne: Australian Council for Educational Research.
  • Rothman, S. (2009). The LSAC Academic Rating Scale score. Melbourne, Victoria: Australian Council for Educational Research.
  • Shonkoff, J. P., & Phillips, D. A. (Eds.). (2000). From neurons to neighborhoods: The science of early childhood development. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
  • Wetherby, A. M., & Prizant, B. M. (2001). Communication and Symbolic Behavior Scales Developmental Profile: Infant-Toddler Checklist. Baltimore, MD: Brookes.

Footnote(s)

1 Expressive language ability includes the capacity to use language effectively and to communicate ideas. Receptive language ability includes the capacity to understand, interpret and listen.

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