London - Poorer children with speech problems will learn to talk better if their parents have more conversations with them, a study suggests.
Previous research has shown that underprivileged children hear around 30 million fewer words than their better-off classmates by the time they start school.
But the latest study suggests that by spending more time in conversation with their parents, children from poorer economic backgrounds can narrow the "word gap" with their wealthier peers.
The US research highlights the importance of parents spending time with children and engaging them in conversation rather than leaving them to watch TV.
It showed stronger connections between Wernicke’s area and Broca’s area – brain regions critical for the comprehension and production of speech – in children whose parents spent longer talking to them. The key factor was that parents and children took turns in conversing.
The study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, was carried out on 40 four- to six-year-old children and their parents.
During a weekend, researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology recorded how much parents spoke to their children and then carried out brain scans.