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Why younger siblings are more likely to have speech and language delay then their old brothers or sisters

Younger siblings might sometimes exhibit speech and language delays compared to their older brothers or sisters due to a variety of environmental, familial, and individual factors. While it's not a universal rule that younger siblings will experience these delays, there are several reasons why this phenomenon can occur:



  1. Less Individual Attention: Younger siblings often receive less one-on-one interaction with parents than their older siblings did at the same age. Parents, now more experienced and perhaps busier with more children to care for, might not engage in as much direct communication or read as frequently to subsequent children. This reduced amount of direct verbal interaction can affect the younger child's language exposure and development opportunities.

  2. Over-reliance on Older Siblings: In families with multiple children, younger siblings may rely on their older siblings to speak for them. This can reduce their need to communicate and delay their speech and language development because they're not practising their skills as much. Older siblings might interpret or respond to their needs, allowing younger children to communicate less directly with adults.

  3. Modelling Immature Speech: Younger siblings often look up to their older brothers and sisters as role models, including mimicking their speech patterns. If the older sibling is still developing their language skills and uses simplified or incorrect forms of words and grammar, the younger sibling might adopt these inaccuracies, which can temporarily delay proper speech and language development.

  4. Birth Order Dynamics: The dynamics of birth order also play a role. First-born children have their parents' undivided attention and benefit from the novelty of parenting, where parents are learning and perhaps more proactive in engaging in educational activities. By the time younger siblings arrive, parents may adopt a more relaxed approach, subtly impacting the language development environment.

  5. Lessened Parental Concern: Having already navigated the developmental milestones of their first child, parents might be less concerned about the precise timing of these milestones for younger siblings. This relaxed attitude can lead to less proactive measures for encouraging speech and language development, with the assumption that the child will "catch up" naturally.

  6. Competition for Attention: In a larger family, younger siblings might find it challenging to have their voice heard over their older siblings, leading to fewer opportunities for practice and reinforcement of language skills in conversation with parents and family members.

It's important to note that while these factors can contribute to delays, they don't necessarily predict or guarantee them. Many younger siblings develop speech and language skills on a typical timeline. Additionally, the social and conversational skills younger siblings gain from having to navigate family dynamics can also be beneficial, providing them with different but equally valuable communicative competences.


If there are concerns about a child's speech and language development, regardless of their birth order, consulting with a paediatrician or Speech and Language Therapist is advisable. They can provide guidance, assess for any underlying issues, and recommend interventions if necessary.

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