Behavior can be tied to language barriers, Iowa State study says

Thomas Schofield also notes that the language barrier is often the problem in cases of communication mismatches.
Thomas Schofield also notes that the language barrier is often the problem in cases of communication mismatches. | File photo

Behavioral issues as children age may be the result of breakdowns in communication between parents and children, research from Iowa State University suggests.

Two studies led by ISU assistant professor of Human Development and Family Studies Thomas Schofield indicated that while positive discipline and warm parenting were more effective, this was only the case when both parties were fluent in the same language.

If parents were harsh with a language barrier, the  likelihood of aggression and lacking self-control increased.

“Parents want to make sure our kids understand why we’re doing what we’re doing, and particularly to explain our actions if we’ve been inconsistent or insensitive,” Schofield said. “If adolescents grow weary of jumping that linguistic hurdle when communicating with their immigrant parents, over time they may start to fill that need to communicate with someone else. People do this in any relationship. We stop trying to make it work with the person who can’t, and we find someone else who can.”

Schofield also notes that the language barrier is often the problem in cases of communication mismatches and that the focus should be on finding common ground linguistically.  

This study also highlighted the differences in how parents and children interpret the family dynamic.

“Parenting is a relationship, a 50-50 blend of two people’s perspectives,” Schofield said.

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