Boys Talk Later Than Girls: True or False? Fort Myers Speech Therapist Has Answers
You’re concerned about your son’s speech-language development, but have been urged not to worry because, “Boys talk later than girls.” As a Fort Myers speech therapist, few phrases are quite as grating.
Here’s the thing: It’s true. Boys do tend to start talking a little later than girls. But it’s not by much – and not nearly as dramatically as you might have been led to believe.
Our issue as speech therapists with this oft-repeated saying is that it’s often used to justify putting off justified parental concerns about their child’s speech-language development. They may be convinced that they are overly-worried about nothing, when it’s actually something. (And sometimes, it doesn’t take much convincing because as parents, we’d prefer that there NOT be something to worry about.)
What The Science Says About “Boy Talk”
Kids naturally vary in virtually all aspects of development, and communication is no exception. Gender has been shown to be positively correlated with differences in language development milestones.
In a 1988 study published in the journal Psychological Bulletin, it was established that girls outperform boys in pretty much all linguistic aspects. Girls will generally:
- Understand the words spoken to her before a boy does.
- Begin talking two months earlier than boys.
- Continue building speech at a greater rate through toddlerhood. (16-month-old girls typically speak 100 words or so, while boys will say about 30.)
There are a few reasons for this. Part of it is that boys, on the whole, tend to gravitate toward play that is more physical than communicative. They may be less likely to engage verbally with their peers. If they’re content to play with their ball on their own, their parents may unintentionally engage them with less 1:1 talking than they do their girls. They may also expect less speech and language from their boys. In turn, they may not catch when there really is a delay.
That said, there is still a range that is typical for certain speech and language milestones. Girls just tend to fall earlier on that spectrum where boys tend to be on the end of it.
Rather than rely on this misleading saying, we’d rather parents be proactive if they have concerns about their child’s speech-language development. If you’re tempted to write off your son’s more limited vocabulary because it doesn’t match up to your daughter’s or some of the girls his age, maybe ask the question, “Is my son talking as much as other boys his age?”
What Are the Risks of Boys Being Late Talkers?
All children benefit from having a solid base of communication early in life. Without it, they may be at risk for academic and/or social consequences. There’s always been a strong connection between the communication skills a child acquires early in life and their effectiveness in using language later.
If a child is lagging behind in language development as a toddler, it can lead to a snowball effect that can continue into kindergarten, first grade and beyond. The longer we wait to intervene in a language delay situation, the more they’ll need to catch up on.
No parent should assume that just because their child is a boy that a speech-language delay is “normal.” The reality is that he may require intervention from a Fort Myers speech therapist.
Early Intervention, ASHA
More Blog Entries:
Identifying Speech Delays in 2-Year-Olds, Jan. 5, 2024, Fort Myers Speech Therapist Blog