The adoption of orphaned and abandoned Chinese children by U.S. citizens has become very common in recent years. Many adoptive parents have concerns that the children they adopt may have difficulties in several areas. Of particular concern is the possibility the children will have trouble acquiring English as their primary language.
But recent studies by associate and assistant professors Rena Krakow and Jenny Roberts in the department of Communication Sciences at Temple University, indicate learning English is not a problem for the vast majority of the Chinese children they have studied.
In fact, studies performed by Krakow and Roberts show most of the children do remarkably well on English language tests, and that future adoptive parents may put their concerns to rest.
Krakow, the mother of an adopted 4-year-old Chinese girl, and Roberts, the aunt of an adopted 14-month-old girl from China, combined their individual and professional interests and have written a series of studies that were just published in the Journal of Multilingual Communication Disorders.
One of the reports, titled “Language Outcomes for Preschool Children Adopted from China as Infants and Toddlers,” studied the language development of 55 Chinese adopted children who had been exposed to English for at least two years and examined their language abilities.
The children, ranging from 3 to 6-years-old, were selected through listservs, direct mailings to adoption agencies and word-of-mouth, and were chosen at random on a first-come, first-serve basis. The participants of the study were all female, with the exception of one male.
Overall, Roberts and Krakow discovered a majority of those who were tested in vocabulary, syntax, phonology and short term memory scored either at or above average.
With only a small percentage scoring below the average skill of the group tested, Robert’s inquisition is “Why are they doing so well?”
In another related article in the Journal of Multilingual Communication Disorders, Krakow and Roberts report their findings in an article entitled “Acquisition of English Vocabulary by Young Chinese Adoptees.”
The article examines how children, adopted as infants, acquire English vocabulary. The researchers were interested in how rapidly the children might begin to learn English, as they had been exposed to a dramatically different language until the time they were adopted.
In this specific study, Krakow and Roberts examined 15 adopted Chinese children from older infancy to toddler-age, and the same recruitment methods were used as in the study described above. In this particular study all of the children participants were female.
Parent questionnaires including the MacArthur Communicative Development Inventory for Toddlers and the Language Development Survey were used to obtain measures of the children’s expressive vocabulary. Krakow said parents of the children were asked to “mark off words children used spontaneously” for one of the ways in obtaining data.
The researchers discovered that in comparison to native English speaking children, the majority of the adopted Chinese children scored at or above the level of those on whom the instruments were normed.
Only a low percentage of children were placed into the below average category, including one child whom they considered to be delayed in her acquisition of the English language.
Although the children who participated in the studies are still young, Krakow said, “Our intent is to follow these kids for a pretty long time.” The researchers plan on tracking the children studied through out their academic years.
Because of their findings, Krakow and Roberts both agree that one great importance of their study is they can now offer reassurance to potential adoptive parents and families of adoptive Chinese children.
Lindsay Walters can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.