The situation once described by Hoffmann (1985), in which children grow up exposed to three languages from an early age, is a reality for an increasing number of families. In Europe – as elsewhere – greater mobility is leading to greater numbers of mixed-language couples (Piller 2002), and, by extension, multilingual families. For such families, questions concerning the acquisition and maintenance of three or more languages in a natural environment are of direct relevance. Researchers in bilingualism have already pointed out the importance of social context for the acquisition of two languages in childhood, focusing in particular on the quantity and quality of exposure to the languages (De Houwer 1990; Döpke 1992; Okita 2002; Lanza 2004) or the prestige of the languages (Lambert 1977). In this paper, I will make use of the insights gained by such researchers and test them in a trilingual setting. The paper will focus mainly on one aspect, namely the conversational style of parents and caretakers. The data come from research being carried out in Switzerland and consist of 33 interviews with multilingual families, as well as case studies of two trilingual children. The findings attest to the importance of conversational style, but at the same time indicate that a number of further factors are also of great significance.