A meta-analysis of the predictability of LENA™ automated measures for child language development

Yuanyuan Wang, Rondeline Williams, Laura Dilley, Derek M Houston
Developmental Review: DR 2020, 57
Early language environment plays a critical role in child language development. The Language ENvironment Analysis (LENA™) system allows researchers and clinicians to collect daylong recordings and obtain automated measures to characterize a child's language environment. This meta-analysis evaluates the predictability of LENA's automated measures for language skills in young children. We systematically searched reports for associations between LENA's automated measures, specifically, adult word count (AWC), conversational turn count (CTC), and child vocalization count (CVC), and language skills in children younger than 48 months. Using robust variance estimation, we calculated weighted mean effect sizes and conducted moderator analyses exploring the factors that might affect this relationship. The results revealed an overall medium effect size for the correlation between LENA's automated measures and language skills. This relationship was largely consistent regardless of child developmental status, publication status, language assessment modality and method, or the age at which the LENA recording was taken; however, the effect was weakly moderated by the gap between LENA recordings and language measures taken. Among the three measures, there were medium associations between CTC and CVC and language, whereas there was a small-to-medium association between AWC and language. These findings extend beyond validation work conducted by the LENA Research Foundation and suggest certain predictive strength of LENA's automated measures for child language. We discussed possible mechanisms underlying the observed associations, as well as the theoretical, methodological, and clinical implications of these findings.

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