Early Literacy Research Library (ELRL) - Article

Early Language Outcomes in Argentinean Toddlers: Associations with Home Literacy, Screen Exposure and Joint Media Engagement

Medawar, J., Tabullo, Á.J., Gago-Galvagno, L.G. (2023) Early Language Outcomes in Argentinean Toddlers: Associations with Home Literacy, Screen Exposure and Joint Media Engagement. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 41(1), 13-30.,

Access: Institutional Access

Publication year


study description


core topic(s)

Early Literacy , Shared Reading

Population Characteristics

International , Race, Ethnicity, and Culture , Toddler/Preschool

Exposures, Outcomes, Other

Language and Literacy Development , Parent Behaviors and Skills , Parent Knowledge, Attitudes, and Beliefs , Parent-Child Relationships/Interactions , Technology and Digital/Screen-Based Media


This study aimed to analyze the contribution of mothers' home literacy beliefs and practices and the quantity and quality of screen media exposure on Argentinean toddler's language. In addition, we considered parent–child joint engagement, as well as adult scaffolding behaviors during the use of electronic devices.


Home Literacy, Screen Exposure, and Media Engagement

outcomes evaluated

Early language outcomes


Recruited from social networks, using non-probabilistic and intentional sampling methods...Most of the children's mothers (98.23%) and fathers (95.69%) had Argentine nationality, the rest having foreign nationality, such as: Chilean, Uruguayan, Mexican, Venezuelan, Bolivian, Peruvian, Paraguayan and Spanish.


A total of 465 mothers of 18–36 months old children completed an online survey including: the MacArthur Bates CDI, home literacy, screen exposure, joint engagement and scaffolding questionnaires.

sample size

n=465 (mothers)


Measure of Parent Education Level: The Permanent Household Survey (INDEC)


Measure of Child Daycare Experiences: information from INDEC about infant’s attendance at daycare, including whether they attended early childhood educational centres (Yes/No), the number of hours they attended, the number of teachers and classmates in their classroom and at what age they began to attend.


Measure of Home Literacy Practices and Beliefs: practices measured through a series of likert scale questions and beliefs through the Parent Belief Reading Scale (PRBI)


Measure of Child Screen Exposure: questions regarding the amount of time of exposure to different devices (i.e. TV, Cell phone, Computer and Tablet) and type of activities with them (i.e. watch videos, use apps or video games, or read books alone or with an adult)


Measure of Joint Media Engagement: questions about the extent to which adults use media with the child and the extent to which adults talk to the child about media via questions about co-viewing, distracted co-viewing, conversation during media use, and discussion after media use


Measure of Self-Reported Scaffolding: 12 items that assessed parents verbal scaffolds (e.g. ‘asking questions about what you see/hear or how an app or device is used’), and 11 items that assessed parents physical scaffolds (e.g. ‘Hold and operate the device for him/her’)


Measure of Children’s Linguistic Development: second part of the McArthur Bates Communicative Development Inventory (CDI) adapted to the Argentine population


Measure of Lexical Density: measures word use including a vocabulary list of 23 semantic categories (e.g. animals, food, objects, clothes, toys, actions) with a total of 699 items (e.g. dog, cake, tree, shirt, crayons and run)


Measure of Sentence Use: five questions asked about the way in which the infant uses language, including about evocation of past and future events, places or people who are not present and symbolic competence (detaching language from its immediate context)



We observed positive effects of literacy beliefs, PC times and verbal scaffolding on language outcomes. TV exposure contributed negatively to vocabulary and, along with educational content, to sentence use. Shared reading and screen media experiences can be an opportunity for language stimulation, provided there is dialogue and joint engagement. Passive screen exposure and inadequate content may be detrimental for toddlers' language outcomes, probably by displacement of socially significant interactions.


Mother's literacy beliefs, PC use, joint engagement and verbal support for electronic device use contributed to toddler's language outcomes. Passive screen exposure (TV viewing) and educational content were negatively associated with language outcomes.


(1) Due to the correlational and cross-sectional nature of our study, we cannot draw direct conclusions regarding the causality of the observed effects, and all our interpretations in this sense should be considered speculative. In this sense, future longitudinal studies would provide further empirical support to our claims. (2) While we did work with a bigger sample than in our previous study, we still used non-probabilistic methods to recruit the participants, who were for the most part highly educated caregivers. Thus, our sample was not representative of the general population. (3) We only included parental self-report measures of children's language outcomes. Future research would benefit from including direct measures, such as home recordings, enabling control of adult language exposure effects and more detailed analysis of children's vocabulary. (4) Receptive language was not measured. As d'Apice and von Stumm (2019) suggest, taking this into account might give rise to stronger associations with literacy practices. (5) Even though we considered parents' education level, which appears to be the SES variable more strongly related to infants' language outcomes, we failed to include other variables such as housing status, income and household overcrowding. In the future, it will be important to take these aspects into consideration, since they might as well have an impact over early language development. In the same way, it would be interesting to see if our results are replicated in other caregivers than the child's mother. (6) Furthermore, future studies should examine if the effects observed in infants and toddlers remain in older children.