Are Teens Failing To Pick Up The Vocabulary Of Their Parents?
One last post on the new book by James Flynn, the political scientist who identified the Flynn Effect—rising IQ scores over the past century. This is a particularly fascinating nugget from his interview with Smithsonian magazine, in which Flynn talks about a growing gap between the vocabularies of adults and their children:
“You look between 1953 and 2006 on the adult Wechsler IQ test, and its vocabulary subtest, and the gains have been 17.4 points. The gains for schoolchildren during a similar period have been only 4 points. That is a spreading difference of 13 IQ points. That’s huge.
[Why has this gap emerged?] In 1950, something like 12 percent of Americans had experienced at least some tertiary, or post-high school, education; today it is up to 52 percent. More people go into cognitively and verbally demanding professions, like law, school teaching, counseling, psychology and journalism. This has had an effect on adult vocabulary.
The IQ gains of our children have been much more muted. You might say, well, the children haven’t been to university. But children are socialized by the adults that speak around them every day. The question is why are parents less capable of socializing their children into their own vocabulary than they were 50 years ago? I can only imagine that some cultural barrier has built up that insulates the speech of children from the speech of adults . . .
In 1950, teenagers could not only understand their parents, but they could also mimic their speech. Today, teenagers can still understand their parents. Their passive vocabularies are good enough. But when it comes to the words they actively use, they are much less capable of adult speak. That is also true of what they would write on an essay.” (Read more here.)
What do you think is behind this phenomenon? Do children and teenagers have their own culture and vocabulary now, making them less interested in adopting that of their parents?