Pediatricians Can Be Key Resource for Fostering Bilingual Language Development

MINNEAPOLIS–(BUSINESS WIRE)–A new study reveals that Spanish-primary-language parents in the U.S.
wish to raise their children bilingually. The study, which examines the
attitudes, beliefs, and intended behaviors among Latino parents,
indicates that pediatricians can play an important role in fostering
bilingualism among children.

The study
published
in the Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences,
identifies factors that influence parents’ decisions and strategies in
raising Spanish/English bilingual children. The findings have
implications for immigrant parents and children — the largest and
fastest growing group of children in the United States. Despite the size
and rate of growth of this population, little is known about the
perspectives of Spanish-primary-language parents on raising their
children bilingually in the United States.

The researchers conducted focus groups with Spanish-primary-language
parents of children 3 to 7 years old. Parents were recruited from a
university hospital–based clinic in Dallas, Texas, where more than 50
percent of patients speak Spanish as their primary language at home.

The results show that parents want their children to be bilingual.
Benefits cited include better career opportunities, and preservation of
culture and native language. The parents’ decision to raise bilingual
children is influenced by family members, schools, and prior parental
experiences. Strategies identified for raising bilingual children
included reading bilingual books and having children speak only Spanish
at home.

“Our study finds that parents view bilingualism as beneficial,” said Glenn
Flores
, Distinguished Chair of Health Policy Research at the Medica
Research Institute. “We also found that parents rely on several
resources to help guide them in raising their children to be bilingual.
Key among those resources are pediatricians.”

The researchers posit that to help foster bilingualism among their
patients who desire it, pediatricians could provide guidance about it
during well-child visits. Pediatricians and healthcare providers may
need to solicit parental preferences and openly discuss bilingualism
with parents. With young children, providers can encourage parents to
promote their native language and continue to foster it at home as the
child matures. Pediatricians also could dispel myths about bilingualism,
such as raising children to be bilingual delays their language
development.

The researchers suggest that pediatricians promote bilingualism by
showing bilingual television programs in waiting rooms and providing
bilingual books. They could also partner with elementary schools and
preschools to promote bilingualism and parent-school collaborations to
optimize bilingual education.

“The pediatrician could potentially have a positive effect on language
and subsequent cultural identity formation for children of parents
seeking information on bilingualism,” write the authors. “As society
becomes increasingly global, bilingualism may become a regular topic of
discussion in the doctor’s office.”

About the Medica Research Institute

The Medica Research Institute is an applied, academic-like environment
in Minneapolis, Minnesota that conducts leading-edge research to inform
high value health care. Institute investigators explore key issues in
health care by resourcing its regional health plan affiliation (Medica)
and health care systems serving patients in the upper Midwest.
Optimizing health care delivery, enhancing health care user engagement,
and informing community health are the three main pillars of the
Institute’s research agenda. To learn more, visit MedicaResearchInstitute.org.

About Medica

Medica is the parent company to the Medica Research Institute and
operates as a health care services company headquartered in Minneapolis
and active in the Upper Midwest. With nearly 1.5 million members, the
non-profit company provides health care coverage in the employer,
individual, Medicaid, Medicare and Medicare Part D markets in Minnesota
and a growing number of counties in Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, South
Dakota and Wisconsin. Medica also offers national network coverage to
employers who also have employees outside the Medica regional network.

Contacts

Medica
Greg Bury, 952-992-8437
Greg.bury@medica.com