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Phonological memory and vocabulary development during the early school years: A longitudinal study.
Gathercole, S.E., Willis, C.S., Emslie, H. & Baddeley, A.D.
Developmental Psychology, 28, 887-898.
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Alternative hypotheses concerning the developmental association between phonological memory and vocabulary knowledge were tested in a longitudinal study of children during the early school years. At each of the four waves of the study (at ages 4, 5, 6 and 8 years), measures of vocabulary, phonological memory, nonverbal intelligence and reading were taken from each child. Vocabulary scores were found to be significantly associated with the phonological memory measures at each wave, but when other factors such as age, nonverbal intelligence and reading were controlled, the relationship fell to a nonsignificant level for the children at age 8. Comparisons of cross-lagged partial correlations were made in order to assess the underlying direction of causality in the relationship between the phonological memory and vocabulary measures, and these revealed a significant shift in the causal underpinnings before and after 5 years of age. Between 4 and 5 years, phonological memory scores predicted vocabulary knowledge one year later to a significantly greater degree than early vocabulary knowledge predicted age 5 phonological memory scores. Beyond this period however, it appeared that vocabulary knowledge became the major pacemaker in the developmental relationship, with the earlier influence of phonological memory on vocabulary development subsiding to a nonsignificant level. Possible reasons for this change in the directionality of the developmental relationship between phonological memory and vocabulary acquisition are discussed.