The CHATTER study

Children’s Activities and Talk in Their Everyday Routines (CHATTER)


Children who are delayed starting to talk compared with other children of the same age are sometimes called ‘late talkers’. Many late talkers go on to ‘catch up’ with their peers, but some children continue to have difficulties understanding and using language into school age and beyond. This is called a developmental language disorder (DLD) and research shows it affects 2 children in every primary school classroom. To help children who are at risk of DLD, speech and language therapists often work with parents of children who are late talkers using parent-child interaction (PCI) approaches. This includes giving parents advice about how to adapt their interactions in ways that support children’s language development in day-to-day life.

However, there are concerns that this type of approach might not be a good fit for all families. PCI approaches are mostly based on studies of mothers and children talking in clinical settings, not at home during everyday routines. Also, many research studies have only included limited, non-diverse groups of families. Because of this, some families have said therapy strategies are hard to fit into their daily routines or are culturally inappropriate.  

Aims of the study

The CHATTER study is being run by Caitlin Holme as part of her PhD at the University of Bristol, and is funded by the Heather van der Lely foundation.

Through this study we want to find out more about how parents and children with typically developing language talk to each other on a typical day. We want to understand how talk varies at different times of day and during different activities, and what parents think about their child’s everyday interactions and activities. If we understand more about diverse interactions between parents and typically developing children, we will know more about what advice to give to parents whose child is struggling with language. We will also be able to think about how advice can be useful, culturally appropriate and fit better with families’ everyday lives.

The research aims are:

1. To understand variation in daily opportunities for interaction in typically developing children from a diverse range of backgrounds, through exploration of activities in their everyday lives and how these relate to interactions on a typical day.

2. To combine observations made in (1) with family perspectives on and explanations of the interactions identified in relation to their context and daily routines.

3.To explore how the findings and methodology used in (1) and (2) could be used to impact clinical practice and improve ecological validity of parent-child interaction therapy.

What will happen in the study?

We hope to recruit a small number of families with a child aged 2.5 to 4 years.

The study will have 3 main steps of data collection:

  1. Families will be given a ‘LENA’ device to record their child’s interactions over a ‘typical day’ of their choice. This is a small audio recorder which fits in a pocket worn over the child’s clothes. The recorder then gives an automatic analysis of times when the child uses and hears language during the day.
  2. We will ask families to take photographs of the different activities they and their child were doing on the day.
  3. Then we will meet for an informal chat about their daily routine and their child’s language and do some activities together like making a timeline of their day.

Information from the LENA recordings, photographs, timelines and conversations will then be explored in depth to build a rich description of different family contexts and communication environments.

How can I find out more?

If you are interested in finding out more about the study, please contact Caitlin at or 0117 4143951.

To find out more you can watch this video of Caitlin explaining the project: