Infants' and toddlers' language development during the pandemic: Socioeconomic status mattered

Priscilla Fung, Thomas St. Pierre, Momina Raja, Elizabeth K. Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has raised concerns about children’s development. Here, we examined the impact of the pandemic on Canadian infants’ and toddlers’ (N = 539) language development. Specifically, we assessed changes in 11- to 34-month-olds’ activities that are known to affect vocabulary development (i.e., screen and reading times). We also compared these children’s vocabulary sizes with those of 1365 children collected before the pandemic using standardized vocabulary assessments. Our results show that screen and reading times were most negatively affected in lower-income children. For vocabulary growth, no measurable change was detected in middle- and high-income children, but lower-income 19- to 29-month-olds fared worse during the pandemic than during pre-pandemic times. Moving forward, these data indicate that educators and policymakers should pay particular attention to children from families with lower socioeconomic status during times of crisis and stress.
Original languageEnglish
Article number105744
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


  • Book reading
  • COVID-19 pandemic
  • Child development
  • Screen exposure
  • Socioeconomic status (SES)
  • Vocabulary development


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