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Previous studies have shown that caregivers' sensitive, responsive interactions with young children can boost language development. We explored the association between caregivers' sensitivity and the vocabulary development of their 8-to-36-month-olds during COVID-19 when family routines were unexpectedly disrupted. Measuring caregivers' sensitivity from home interaction videos at three timepoints, we found that children who experienced more-sensitive concurrent interactions had higher receptive and expressive vocabularies (N=100). Children whose caregivers showed more-sensitive interactions at the beginning of the pandemic showed greater expressive vocabulary growth six (but not 12) months later (n=58). Significant associations with receptive vocabulary growth were not observed. Our findings highlight the importance of sensitivity at a time when other positive influences on language development were compromised.

Original publication




Journal article


J Child Lang

Publication Date



1 - 17


Covid-19, Interaction quality, vocabulary