The Effect of Older Sibling, Postnatal Maternal Stress, and Household Factors on Language Development in Two to Four-Year-Old Children

Naomi Havron, Irena Lovcevic, Michelle Z.L. Kee, Helen Chen, Yap Seng Chong, Mary Daniel, Birit F.P. Broekman, Sho Tsuji

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Previous literature has shown that family structure affects language development. Here, factors relating to older siblings (their presence in the house, sex, and age gap), mothers (maternal stress), and household size and residential crowding were assessed to systematically examine the different roles of these factors. Data from mother–child dyads in a Singaporean birth cohort, (677–855 dyads; 52% males; 58% to 61% Chinese, 20% to 24% Malay, 17% to 19% Indian) collected when children were 24, 48, and 54 months old, were analyzed. There was a negative effect of having an older sibling, moderated by the siblings’ age gap, but not by the older sibling’s sex, nor household size or residential crowding. Maternal stress affected language outcomes in some analyses but not others.

Original languageEnglish
JournalDevelopmental Psychology
StateAccepted/In press - 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research is supported by the Singapore National Research Foundation under its Translational and Clinical Research (TCR) Flagship Program and administered by the Singapore Ministry of Health’s National Medical Research Council (NMRC), Singapore - NMRC/TCR/004-NUS/ 2008; NMRC/TCR/012-NUHS/2014. Additional funding is provided by the Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences, Agency for Science Technology and Research (A*STAR), Singapore. Furthermore, this work was supported by World Premier International Research Center Initiative (WPI), MEXT, JSPS Grant-in-aid for Transformative Research Areas (20H05919) and Institute for AI and Beyond, Japan. We thank Michael Meaney from A*Star Singapore and Anne Rifkin-Graboi, Center for Research in Child Development, National Institute of Education, Singapore, for providing insightful comments.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022. American Psychological Association


  • Cognitive development
  • Household size
  • Language development
  • Maternal stress
  • Older siblings

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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