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September 2016

The 30 Million–Word Gap: Relevance for Pediatrics

Author Affiliations
  • 1Division of Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics, Department of Pediatrics, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor
  • 2Juniper Gardens Children’s Project, University of Kansas, Kansas City
  • 3Division of General Academic Pediatrics, Department of Pediatrics, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts
JAMA Pediatr. 2016;170(9):825-826. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2016.1486

As many as 40% to 50% of the children pediatric clinicians serve are growing up in low-income households. Among the myriad physical and mental health sequelae of early adversity and toxic stress, language development appears to be one area particularly vulnerable to the stressors associated with poverty. The effects of poverty on language development have been documented in children as young as 9 months, becoming more clinically evident by 24 months.1 The consequences of early adversity–related language delays may be profound, leading to later learning delays, school failure, and lifelong social and economic consequences.2

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