Working Class Babies Need Talking To

Jake Wallis Simons, Telegraph (London), April 12, 2013

Last month, the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayor’s Challenge–an annual American competition to find the boldest “local solutions to national problems”–awarded its $5 million “grand prize” to a rather unusual programme. Run by the city of Providence, Rhode Island, the project aims to teach poor parents how to talk to their babies.

According to the New York Times and other American news outlets, the “Providence Talks” programme will be based on research carried out by two psychologists from the University of Kansas, Betty Hart (who died last year) and Todd R Risley, who in 1995 published their findings in a book called Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children. The results of these studies were striking. After six years of data collection and analysis, they established that while “professional class” children hear on average 2,153 words per hour from their parents, children whose parents were on welfare–the “Precariat”, as the BBC might have described them–hear just 616 (television didn’t count; it was found to have an adverse effect).

Thus, while the wealthier child will be treated to a near-constant stream of cooing commentary, poorer parents tend to limit their interactions with their babies to commands such as “Put away your toy!” and “Don’t eat that!” This meant that by his third birthday, the poorest child will have heard around 30 million fewer words than his middle class counterpart.

The implications, according to Hart and Risley, were striking. The quantity of words to which a child is exposed was found to have a profound impact on its future academic achievements, and even its IQ. Poor boys were found to be the biggest losers, as working-class parents tended to talk more to girls. The psychologists’ conclusion was radical and contentious. If everyone talked to their young children the same amount, “there would be no racial or socioeconomic gap at all”.

As the Mayor of Providence, Angel Taveras, and the Schools Superintendent, Susan Lusihe, explained in a video pitch for the Bloomberg prize, the problem is particularly pressing in Providence, where only one in three children enter school at the “appropriate literary benchmarks”. Mr Taveras told the Boston Globe that “I felt this was a big issue we could attack on a citywide level”, by implementing the Providence Talks programme.

This must be taken with a certain pinch of salt. It is almost certain that the disadvantages experienced by poorer children result from a variety of factors, not just the level of words heard as a toddler. Nevertheless, the research is sufficiently persuasive to have stood the test of time, and is widely thought to hold a great deal of truth. If the Providence Talks programme works, it could mitigate – to some extent – the disadvantage that children from poorer backgrounds are subjected to, and establish a (relatively) level playing field.

The vital importance of early childhood care has long been understood. Oliver James, the clinical psychologist and author, puts it very well: by the age of three, he says, the “electro-chemical thermostat” of the brain has been established. That is, on a normal day, when nothing hugely exciting or demoralising is taking place, the mood one naturally falls into is linked to the experience of early childhood. The psychoanalytic psychotherapist Sue Gerhardt agrees, arguing that a poor quality of care in the early years can cause a child to develop an emotional “black hole” in later life.

The type of care a child needs during this crucial time is simply that of an attentive, responsive parent. As Gerhardt explains in her seminal work Why Love Matters, research has hsown that when a baby experiences distress and a parent acts to relieve it, dopamine is produced in the baby’s brain which actively constructs the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for self-awareness, social awareness and other important skills. Prolonged experiences of stress can have the opposite effect. In other words, the brain of the unloved child will develop less healthily than that of a baby who receives much love and attention. This, combined with the aforementioned studies into the effects of talking to a baby, makes a compelling case for a higher priority to be placed upon early childhood care.

Currently, early childhood is sustaining an onslaught from a variety of sources. On the one hand, the Government is so keen to get women back into work that it provides powerful incentives for children to be separated from their parents and put into a large nursery well before the age of three, where they may not receive the attention they need. (Good quality early childhood care does not necessarily need to come from the mother; a father, grandmother or nanny, if sensitive to the needs of the baby and able to provide one-to-one care, can be just as good.) On the other, the ubiquity of television, iPads and mobiles creates an atmosphere of distraction and passivity, which can only have a detrimental impact on the level of quality time a parent spends with her children.

We ignore the needs of toddlers at our peril. The Britain of 2050 depends on the babies of today, and it is of paramount importance that we get it right now. Those vital, and very brief, first three years–and the women and men who have the wisdom to devote proper time and energy to it–should be properly valued and respected.

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  • The moral of this story:

    Black women of child bearing and rearing years don’t talk enough.

    And also…I’ve just put the Golden Gate Bridge up for sale.

    • Robert Binion

      Sometimes, Restoration orthography seems best: Before the inevitable killing, Diversity’s first victim is Tenderness.

    • Aspiring rapper

      They’re practically silent…once you remove all the curse words.

    • The__Bobster

      Maybe the golliwogs should pretend that they’re sail foams. Nubian queens chutter at those constantly.

    • Don’t talk enough? They never shut up. Same with black men. Rapping to themselves while they walk down sidewalks. Constantly yapping on their sail foams as if the minutes never run out.
      Problem is that they don’t talk to their kids or read to them. Just slap them around and throw them on the other side of the bus when they need to fight.
      Not that talking or reading to them is going to magically move them to the other side of the slope of the Bell Curve.
      And while we argue over this idiot idea, let’s not forget how much more TV time the “working class baby” has received before it is time to shuffle it off to Headstart, the place where they are supposed to be getting the jump on white babies, the answer to all the educational achievement gaps. That has to count for something.

      • GeneticsareDestiny

        “Rapping to themselves while they walk down sidewalks.”

        I have always wondered why they do this. I have never seen any other race of man doing that, not even Hispanics. Is it some kind of mating signal to black women? Do black women find this attractive in a mate?

        I guess we’ll never know.

        • Thor Bonham

          Race of man ?? Hmmm, I’ll have to think about that one awhile ..

        • convairXF92

          Isn’t there some kind of mental illness where one compulsively speaks in rhymes? I remember reading about this long ago.

      • Morris LeChat

        This whole thing reminds me of the fad of having babies listen to classical music . That turned out to have no effect at all. This will be the same.

      • So somebody is going to spend $5 million trying to get the ghetto to “act white”? Like enough money hasn’t been spent on that idiotic idea already.

    • Morris LeChat

      I was unfortunate enough to have to spend time in The registry of motor vehicles in the boston area today. there were several black females that would not be quite for a second. Believe me, they talk all the time. It is always some effort to lie about something or scam something or to get attention. It is usually “you be do’in …” ” I did send da money….” ” I tohl you twos be quiets!” “I’m gawn slap you..”

      • Just as the inverse squares law is a law of physics, I think it also applies to black noise. For instance, if you double the number of blacks in a place, they’ll be four times louder. If you triple, nine times louder.

        • Erasmus

          For instance, if you double the number of blacks in a place, they’ll be four times louder. If you triple, nine times louder.

          I thought this was a cubic function and not a square one.

    • me

      Ebonics is not ‘talking’ in the traditional sense. Neither is cussing every other word. They needed five million dollars to come to the conclusion that Blacks make horrible parents? I could have told them that for free….

  • generalquagmyer

    I have only anecdotal evidence, but there might be something to this. A black female acquainance some years ago had a four year old granddaughter who didn’t speak. Said virtually nothing! She’d questioned her daughter–a single mother of course–and found that she had never during the child’s upbringing spoken to the kid at all. She just figured the kid would start speaking one day in complete sentences without any input.
    Judging by the verbal output of most black females, this probably isn’t typical. It happens, though. And somehow, I can’t imagine anyone but a black thinking that a kid would just pick up speech out of nothing.

    • I get the feeling that the mother did speak to her daughter often, just not the kind of words she would want to admit using in public. They use the MF word so often that I wouldn’t be surprised if the first words that most ghetto Bellcurvius sprogs say is “MF.”

      • The__Bobster

        Yes, they ook “mama” first, then that second word. The word “daddy” comes later…..far later.

        • Katherine McChesney

          I thought ‘daddy’ was a lost word in their culture.

        • Erasmus

          Daddy in their culture has as much tinge of reality as “Santa Claus” and “Easter Bunny.”

          • The Bobster

            Okay, the first time they hear the word ‘daddy” might be on the “Maury Show”.

        • dd121

          “Look Jamal, baby said a half a word, ‘mother'”.

    • Aspiring rapper

      That mother is highly unintelligent, and she probably passed her low IQ on to her daughter as well.

    • Just like they pick up higher-level math?

    • HamletsGhost

      Maybe the daughter was just plain retarded? Use Occam’s razor here.

    • Morris LeChat

      wow, a black that didn’t speak, sounds too good to be true

  • sbuffalonative

    Yet another theory.

    When it fails to show any results (and it will), someone will come up with a new theory and another theory to explain why the previous theory failed.

    It’s endless.

    • Oil Can Harry

      Correct. Another useless theory to explain the acheivement gap.

      And when this one goes down in flames it will be replaced with an equally far-fetched one.

  • Aspiring rapper

    Some middle-class white moms never stop jabbering at their kids because of articles like this. I’ve also seen moms that never let their toddlers play with their toys alone. Every person needs a little silence and independence now and then, even babies.

    • Morris LeChat

      some white mothers, always libs, are insufferable in their constant jabbering in the form of “lessons”. Everything is a “lesson”, Things like “see that ballon flying away in the air? Why did it fly away? It flew away because it is lighter than air and someone let go of it…..” on and on and always in a high pitched lilting tone as if they are speaking to idiots. It makes me cringe. This is why white liberals exist, because they had idiots talking to them nonstop when they were young.

      • Anonymous

        I would much rather have an upper-middle-class White mother who points out to me every damn thing under the sun than a ghetto mother who doesn’t bother to interact with me.

        Chillax, guys. The majority of upper middle class White women make excellent mothers.

      • ncpride

        I have a female relative who insists on talking to her toddlers as if they are little fools. For example, when it’s time for dinner, she’ll ask them if they are ready for ‘bite bites’…. Gets on my last nerve. For heavens sake, they are old enough to know what dinner is and to be told it’s time to eat. I never spoke to my kids in ‘baby talk’ and they have excellent vocabularies.

  • Xerxes22

    These are not working class babies. They are non-working class babies spawned by non-working class parents and raised by non-working class mothers and grandmothers.

  • The__Bobster

    How do they account for the large vocabularies of White kids who were raised by illegal alien nannies?

  • David Ashton

    The underclass in Britain just sits its offspring in front of the “telly”.

  • IstvanIN

    Working class? Phooey. Blacks probably.

  • Bill

    Faulty analysis here. Blacks can’t be shut up. Talk incessantly, so that can’t be the problem. Maybe they should be calling their kids “little mother f**kers”? Anyway, the article talks about working class. Blacks don’t work, so they can’t be talking about blacks, right? Even when they HAVE jobs (government jobs of some sort) they STILL don’t work. But talk incessantly at their place of “employment”? Yup.

    • Bill

      That was maybe they should NOT be calling their kids……..typo.

      • Thor Bonham

        That’s why there is an edit button there .. So you don’t have to explain your screw up…

        • Bill

          Maybe an edit button shows up for you, but I’ve never seen one available once the post was made.

  • MekongDelta69

    Parent(s)? That implies the baby-daddy stuck around his 70 IQ baby-momma.

    I’ve lost count now. What number are we up to? The 11,374,583rd leftist study ‘explaining’ (i.e. ‘excusing’) the never-ending ‘racial gap.’

    • Yes, and now they are called “working class”. Add that term to “teens”, “youths”, and “young adults” to what the media uses to describe them without describing them.

      • Who Me?

        Yep, a 14 year old unwed, unemployed, high school drop out, black “baby momma” is now known as a working class teen parent (singular). This PC bull poop is putting a real strain on the English language.
        Wait till you get a proper education, get married to a man with a J-O-B, then stay home and take care of your own baby/babies, only have 2 or 3 of them (not 8-10), TALK to them, do not scream at them and use profanity at every other word.

        If they did this (in other words act like regular working class WHITE parents), in a couple of generations the education gap would start to narrow noticeably It would never close completely, but it would help.

    • HamletsGhost

      Yes, I myself was wondering if anyone has ever tabulated all the excuses for minority failure and put them into one volume. It’d be longer and more boring to read than the phone book.

  • bigone4u

    I assume that ebonics doesn’t count as language in this study. Even if it is counted as language, speaking ebonics would surely do more harm than good. I also assume that yelling at children, which I see minority mothers doing all the time, would have a different effect from reading them Shakespeare. That said, white mothers who return to work while leaving infants in unsupervised daycare do their children no good. Also, using the TV as a babysitter for older children would be counterproductive even if the programming was decent.
    BTW, the theory works with puppies too. I have found that giving a pup a language rich environment with plenty of play time creates a more stable, intelligent, loyal adult dog.

  • Ron Z

    It sounds plausible but does not pan out very well in research. The seed is more
    basic than the tillage.

  • pcmustgo

    Well Blacks do have really poor habits , like having the kid way too young, ignoring/neglecting the kid, having the tv on all day, blaring music and teaching the kid to dance in sexually provacative ways, exposing the kid to endless boyfriends and social chaos at home, often violence too, etc.

    Better habits probably would help a bit, but that’s “acting white”.

  • Luca

    Liberal psycho-babble using code words to skirt the real issue. If poverty causes all these problems the US would have been wiped of the face of the earth through crime and ignorance during the Great Depression.

    And how did the dirt-poor immigrants who came here in the 19th and 20th centuries ever produce children who went on to become doctors, lawyers and scientists? They were poor, had menial jobs, could not speak the language well, lived in ghettos, etc.

    Persistent, generational poverty is due to low IQ humanoids who can never be fully civilized and with these dregs come the usual symptoms they produce: crime, low achievement, lack of morals, bad hygiene, poor work ethics, drug use, alcohol abuse, physical abuse, promiscuity, STD’s, single parent families, and perpetuation of their poverty. And the Liberals reward and excuse this behavior which is why the dregs vote the way they do. End of story.

  • LastBastionOfHope

    So the cure to all black people’s ills is simply talking huh? I would bet my life that you could hire a Harvard grad to have conversations for 3 hours a day with young black kids in the ghetto and no real improvement would happen.

    • GeneticsareDestiny

      Yep. Liberals just can’t accept that black children have low average IQs because of the genetics they received at conception, not because of anything that happened after that.

  • So CAL Snowman

    ” If everyone talked to their young children the same amount, “there would be no racial or socioeconomic gap at all”

    And another liberal institution goes full retard.

  • bubo

    More Orwell talk. Working class actually means non-working. Professional class means “white person with a job.”

    • MikeofAges

      Someone got it right, for once. The upper middle class is called upper class. The middle class is called upper middle class. The pettite bourgeiosie and working class are called middle class. The people who don’t work (underclass or lumpenproletariat) are called working class. No upper class in America, so everyone gets a jump up. A polite fiction, you might say, but still a fiction.

  • IstvanIN

    It would be interesting if we could IQ test all the black babies adopted by white families, white singles, white gay couples, any black baby (no child over 12 months) and see how environment affected their IQ. I bet regardless of the white socioeconomic group that took them in the blacks would still score lower on average.

    • Brian

      Tests just like that have reportedly been done, and many variations thereof. The results are in journals, but are very hard to find for some PC reason we can all instantly understand.
      Among them, Black twins separated at birth and adopted by other people. Both went on to develop the exact same explosive-tempered personality and lack of social skills as other Blacks.

    • Aspiring rapper

      There was a study just like that mentioned on Amren a few years back. Blacks adopted by whites scored better than most blacks until puberty, then they stagnated mentally until they were no smarter than blacks in the ghetto. DNA overruns parenting during puberty; by age 20 the blacks were just like their genetic parents.

      The adopted blacks were slightly less criminal but more prone to personality disorders. In other words, they had less criminal training from black peers but faced additional stress from not fitting into their white “families”. Adoption by whites didn’t help them in the long run.

  • MBlanc46

    Low IQ “working class” parents with small vocabularies have low IQ children with small vocabularies. High IQ “professional” parents with large vocabularies have high IQ children with large vocabularies. This is surprising? The poor taxpayers of Providence are being bilked again.

    • Morris LeChat

      whatchoo be talking bout willis?

  • Funruffian

    This study is fully moot in that it credits quantity over quality. If I babbled Ebonics to my White child 3000-4000 words per day is she supposed to be more adept socially and intellectually as opposed to speaking to her in proper English for only 500-600 words per day? RUBBISH I TELL YOU.
    While i do believe that children require physical and emotional attention in order to develop socially, I think we need to apply a whole new factor of quality time over anything else.

  • When Ariadne was very little, I sang to her. She still likes it.

    • Angry White Woman

      Small children love to have daddy or mommy read them bedtime stories, too. Sure, reading the same thing over and over and over and over every night gets boring real fast, but it repetition is important for the child, and helps them want to learn to read for themselves, too. Of course this requires that the parent know how to read fluently at more than a second or third grade level, which makes it a moot point for most blacks.

  • NM156

    The majority of the working class white babies I grew up with either went to college and created careers for themselves or became skilled tradesmen.

  • Morris LeChat

    black adults have a very limited vocabulary. The several different tenses of the verb “to be” for instance just don’t exists in black language, only the present tense does. This is not a “cultural” thing, this is an organic thing. People rise or fall to their inborn ability levels. The researchers got it all backwards, the high income people speak more words because their brains are better and they therefore know more, and earn more/perform better.

    • TheAntidote


  • JohnEngelman

    In their book “Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything” University of Chicago economist Steven Levitt and New York Times journalist Stephen J. Dubner demonstrated that reading to children does not effect later academic performance, but that having a lot of books in the house does. They reasoned that owning many books is evidence of high IQs, and that what parents are matters more than what they do.

    • Aspiring rapper

      Absolutely – IQ is at least 60% genetic (Jensen). Smart parents often have lots of books in the house, and also have smart kids. It’s the DNA, not the books. Filling stupid parents’ houses with books won’t magically make their kids smarter.

  • cadmium

    I would suggest the professional parents speak more to their children because they tend to have more thoughts in their heads. In order for ”welfare” parents to speak more to their children, they will need to have more thoughts in their heads. How should we accomplish this?

    Very interesting how TV doesn’t count. So language stops being language if it passes through technology. Does that mean phone calls from parents don’t count?

    Or perhaps the words only count if they come from a parent?
    That’s clearly consistent with child mimicry of popular culture and peer groups.

    But if it only soaks in via parent, seems we have a problem then.
    Because if the working class parents can’t talk enough, and we can’t ”enrich” the child with
    audio via other people or other media, and I suppose building vocab with non-vocalised reading is also useless … where does that leave our egalitarian utopia?

  • thoughtcrime

    No…if there was compulsory sterilization for all welfare recipients then “there would be no racial or socioeconomic gap at all”.

    End of issue!

  • reveal1914

    …All brains are Equal….

  • Cado

    Hello, people who are complaining about loud stupid blacks who can’t keep their yappers shut… The quality and variety of words is the important key here. Shaquanda’s and Tyrese’s meager 616 words include constant repetition of nigga and mufugga, and lack grammatical correctness. I’d wager that the higher class also used more complex grammatical
    structure and included reasoning earlier in their child’s lifetime. If you have young children, don’t be afraid to talk to them like you would an adult. Even if they don’t completely understand you, they need to hear complex structures in order to make sense out of them later. They are always listening and their brains will link things together much later. You shouldn’t wait for the school system to teach your kids to read, either. Hell, you shouldn’t wait for the school system for anything, “No Dipshit Left Behind” means everyone progresses at the idiot’s pace. Our children are more capable than we expect and we squander their potential because we don’t challenge them.

  • puffdaddy

    Have you heard about the multicultural excuse for cheating? “From is the rational for a specific ethnic group’s propensity to cheat, ur, I mean “share.” The essay makes cheating into a positive, as if it were “sharing and caring” but only for certain groups. Any other group who does not have the same propensity for “sharing” gets a F! Incidentally, this handbook is for “non-Hispanic” educators, which makes me assume that Hispanic educators understand and accept cheating, ur I mean sharing, among students. Do you think “diversity” or “multiculturalism” leads to freedom or to chaos and tyranny?” (

  • June

    In a way there may be something to this. A close friend of mine was a guidance counselor at an all black elementary school for many years. She told me it was very common for these children to begin the first grade with 25 word vocabularies, most of which were profanities. Typically most blacks do not talk to their children, they talk at them, yell at them or talk around them and never in clear, correct English.

    From before he was born we talked to our child. We always used a calm voice and spoke in complete sentences plus we gave him lots of physical contact and affection. We had him tested by a psychologist at about age four and his vocabulary was beyond 1000 words and his IQ was off the chart. He is now a professor at a major college and has very, very broad interests in many fields.

    Doing what we did will not turn black children into geniuses but it might help a few to be literate enough to find a job.

  • MikeofAges

    It’ll help. In the underclass, regardless of race, early childhood can be a very brutal experience. I’ve seen enough of it, in all three major groups in America, to get the idea.

    The world of early childhood is very influential, and it is also a secret world passed from mother to daughter more than anything. It is worthwhile intervening in it, I would say. But also brutally difficult for outsiders to penetrate.