Comparing the effect of home and institutional learning environment on children’s vocabulary in primary school

Jennifer Lambrecht, Katja Bogda, Helvi Koch, Guido Nottbusch, Nadine Spörer


It is assumed that additionally to the family background and child characteristics, the children’s learning environments are crucial for the acquisition of early competencies. This study aimed to compare the effects of home and institutional learning environment on young children’s vocabulary and to test necessary conditions for a potential compensatory effect of the institutional learning environment. Using longitudinal data from N = 557 preschool children (German National Educational Panel Study), we analysed to what extent family background and children’s characteristics predicted home and institutional learning environments and to what extent these learning environments predicted vocabulary in preschool and primary school. In order to test if both learning environments predict vocabulary separately, we used almost identical indicators to operationalize them. The effects were estimated within a structural equation model. The study revealed that both, home and institutional learning environment, had small and separate effects on children’s vocabulary. The home learning environment was more closely related to the family background, while the institutional learning environment was more closely related to the children’s characteristics. This evokes new possibilities to discuss compensatory effects.


Home learning environment; Institutional learning environment; Vocabulary; Compensatory effect

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Journal for Educational Research Online/Journal für Bildungsforschung Online (ISSN 1866-6671)