A new study suggests babies adopted from abroad may not be able to master language to the same level as Canadian-born babies.
The study followed adopted Chinese-born babies and found that when they are compared against Canadian-born peers from similar households, the adopted children fared worse in language development.
In different tests, between one-third and half of the adopted children had slightly more trouble expressing themselves, and about one-quarter had a bit more trouble understanding language than their Canadian-born peers.
"They are not huge differences, but they are statistically reliable differences," said Fred Genesee, the study's director.
The psychology professor at McGill University conducted the study along with his doctoral student Karine Gauthier and their findings appear in this month's issue of the journal Child Development.
In their study, they compared the French-language skills of two sets of children: Chinese-born children adopted by Quebec families, and their Quebec-born peers raised in homes with a similar socio-economic status.
Genesee says it's important to study kids from similar households because internationally adopted children are generally adopted into homes that should be above-average language learning environments.
He explained that adoptive parents tend to be middle and upper-middle class, are older and have no other children. Research shows that such factors favour language development, even in biological children, he said.
The decision to compare children from similar households marks a shift from previous research — which used the general population as a benchmark and concluded that Chinese-born adopted kids developed average language skills.
It took this new methodology to detect a difference.
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