Impact of the Family Structure on Language Development

In order to elaborate further on the study we need to know the meaning of the terminologies used. Family structures may adversely have impacts on development of the language. In understanding what a family structure is and what language development is, we will tackle the impacts. A family structure is not necessarily a biological unit. It is a social construct. At a purely biological level, a person is descended from both a father and mother; this fact may or may not be socially acknowledged for the purposes of determining his or her place in society, or in rights of succession and inheritance. People from different cultural backgrounds include a different range of people when describing their families, according to the range of relationships that are defined as important.Families can be further categorized into five different types a nuclear family, stem family, lineal family, an extended or joint family and a compound family(UNESCO, 6 -7).

Many linguists believe there is a ‘critical period’ (lasting roughly from birth until puberty) during which a child can easily acquire any language that he or she is regularly exposed to. Under this view, the structure of the brain changes at puberty, and after that it becomes harder to learn a new language. This means that it is much easier to learn a second language during childhood than as an adult.

Both tradition and religion influence concepts of family. Confucianism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism or Christianity overlay traditional family patterns to create a variety of family structures and obligations. This chapter looks at the predominant family structures in Asian, Indian, African and Pacific countries, with brief comment about Eastern European countries. Countries with similar structures have been grouped. Language development is the progressive ability to learn and comprehend a certain system of sounds and words used by humans to express their thoughts and feelings. Putting this in mind we learn the problems families impose on the language development. Family structures vary from point to point. The assumed normal structure is that of parents and children but nowadays extended families are more and more popularized than the simple one(UNESCO, 6 -7).

Bilingualism is major factor in child language development. It can be either a positive aspect or negative one depending on how the parents portray it to the children. Apart from the above, children do tend to develop more native-like pronunciation when bilingualism begins before puberty. The Impact of bilingualism on overall language development can be categorized into two. Two types of childhood bilingualism have been defined as simultaneous learning of two languages. It normally happens when the language used at home is different from language used in the community or school. The parents, caregivers or other family members might not speak the language of the school or the community, or the parents could speak two or more languages but have made a decision about which language they speak with the child. The second type of childhood bilingualism is called sequential or successive bilingualism. This happens when a child has one established language before learning a second language, whether in preschool or later (the age of three usually separates simultaneous and sequential language learning) (Namwamba, 106-115).

This aspect of two different languages can confuse the child language development. Multiple ethnicities cause the children developing a certain language mix them creating an easier way to converse deterring norm. Negative effects of bilingualism can be prevented only if the parents consider the following if not there will be an obvious negative impact on family development. Children should not be talked to using one language with the elder and another language with the younger. Language is tied to emotions, and if you address your children in different languages, some of your children may feel excluded, which in turn might adversely affect their behavior and hence language development. Children should not be forced into bilingualism if it really does make them unhappy.

If parents feel strongly about their children using one particular language they encourage them to use it in all of their communication. Discourage the use of another language by asking them to repeat what they said in the preferred language or by gently offering them the appropriate words in the language you want them to use. Parents should be consistent with the pattern they choose, stick to it.

Some children and adults, of course, usually learn a second language formally through school or language classes. Provide the right environment. Do what comes naturally to the family in terms of which language(s) you use when, but make sure your children hear both (or all three or four) languages frequently and in a variety of circumstances. Create opportunities for your children to use all of the languages they hear. Be good listeners and good language models by introducing rich vocabulary and varied conversations. Providing books, music, and even videos in both languages is also important.

Marriage and childbirth happening at later ages affect the children’s especially the newborns in the family. They will grow up amongst adult family members who may at times be harsh on the terminologies to the kids who are developing there language. The kids will be confused with complex terminologies expressed to them by the elder members, which will definitely be different from those expressed at day care or Pre School. Growing up in this variation of expression may confuse the child as he/she tries to grasp different terminologies of words with same meanings. These families which are so mature in the sense that age brings maturity can also bring about positive language development process if the raise the children in a well considerate atmosphere (Susan & Alison).

In circumstances where in a family commitment no longer precedes cohabiting, due to increased rates of separation and divorce, the child will grow up in different scenarios each and every time alternating. The roles of parents as guardian flux in the sense that, when the parents are trying to impress there growing children they will tend to ease on there strictness, and the ability to teach the child proper grammar. They will even let the child miss school and watch television if that makes them superior in terms of favoritism to the other. This greatly affects the child communication skills and language development (Susan & Alison).

Television is a great hindrance to language development and should be avoided at the developing stages. This is because kids tend to adopt and grasp words at random and television brings about many vulgar, vernacular, and misplaced naming of different objects according to the theme. This will confuse the party developing the language. Therefore the partner in this relationship being to lenient to the growing child will damage there chance at language development (Namwamba, 106-115)..

Diversity of family structures may take us to scenarios where children may be raised by multiple, nonrelated parents. This may cause a big blow to development of the language if the partners keep changing and there of different cultures, tradition and ethnicity. Bringing up a child in an environment of diverse ethnicity and frequently altering the child’s native ethnicity in which he/she identifies with will immensely affect language development. This can be achieved if the child has multiple parents with different ethnical background, or the non-related parents are of different ethnicities and both want the child to follow their values, traditions and language (Susan & Alison).

Persons are likely to experience one or more family transitions in their childhood years. Family transition will affect the family structure the child is used to. Hence the new concept introduced in the transition might be shocking or confusing to the child. An example is the same sex marriages, if a child who was being brought up in a religious family and part of their lives he/she is placed in a same sex home, the child would be traumatized and hence stall in general development due to the trauma, this will in turn affect language growth. We can term trauma as a hindrance to any development in any society and to any human of any age or sex (Jan, 33-60).

Foster family structure or an adapted child may come into a family of different ethnicity, moral teachings, religion and generally way of life from where he/she hailed before. The mode of grasping the language and developing it will suffer a big blow if the adapting or foster care family does not put in mind the background the child hails from. The development progressing will either halt, due to the new scenario, or deal a big blow. Different religions bring in different languages, an example of Muslim and the Arabic writings. If a child was being raised in a Christian family and is adopted into a strict Muslim family he/she will encounter a serious blow as in Islam most teachings are Arabic, meaning the child will have to introduce to a mandatory new language while undertaking his/hers religious studies.

In compound families, we fin that there are a couple of families living together in one home. Here we find the growing children are subjected to a variety of teachings and culture. This can be helpful to the language and general development of the child but only if the families consider there children’s growth and development. If not the children will be mix up in the various options laid out to him/ her to grasp. In the case where an adult in the one of the families is encouraging the children to speak his or her dialect, let say Spanish, and the children go back to there homes to converse in English there would be a mix-up of English and Spanish in their conversation. This is not done purposely by the children but due to the mix-up in the languages the child assumes it is correct to mix dialect. The can also be seen in extended families with different dialects into play (Jan, 33-60).

An example is where a couple of different dialects come together and conceive a child. After the child is born they agree to raise the child in the specific way and put aside their dialectical differences for the purpose of proper language development of the child. Then one of the parents of either couple moves in with them. Since the couple will leave the child for long periods with the grandparent, he/she will impose the values that he/she used to raise the parent. This will bring in teaching the child or speaking to the child with there native dialect. When the parents come back they will continue with there routine as usual and this confuses greatly the child (Namwamba, 106-115).

This effect can also be seen in family structures that have helps of different dialects or nannies of different dialects than that they want to teach the children. House helps and nannies should therefore be encouraged to teach and speak to the child in a dialect the child is using with the parents and the general society. This will help the child improve on the language and speaking skills and generally improve the conversation abilities of the child

In conclusion the development of language depends on the means and lines of communication. Communication between the person developing the language and those who have established themselves in the language promotes the development of the language. This therefore means the person who has developed the language should accept and realize that the other party is learning and learning comes in stages. This means he/she should take a step at a time in teaching the language hence teach one language to a point where communication is achieved to almost perfection before introducing another. Since the parents and family in general are the first teachers to young growing children, they should consider the child’s language growth and development and give preference to the child’s needs ahead of their own.


Jan Pryor, Children in changing family structures. New Zealand 2000.

Namwamba J.B. Language development 3rd ed. K.I.E, 1997.

Susan Elliott & Alison Gray, Family structures, a report for the immigration service. 2000.

UNESCO, A report on family structures. 1992.

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