Publication Date

2017-06-27

Availability

Embargoed

Embargo Period

2019-06-27

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)

Department

Psychology (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense

2017-03-23

First Committee Member

Daryl B. Greenfield

Second Committee Member

Rebecca Shearer

Third Committee Member

Brian D. Doss

Fourth Committee Member

Batya Elbaum

Fifth Committee Member

Andrew Lynch

Abstract

Young Spanish-speaking Latinos in the U.S., most of whom are from low-income backgrounds, perform below their English-speaking peers at kindergarten entry. This achievement gap is concerning considering the rising number of Latino children in the U.S. living in poverty. Despite this risk, a large body of research highlights the positive effects of learning two languages. Latino DLLs attending Head Start, compared to their monolingual peers, were recently found to have higher executive functioning (EF), a set of domain-general cognitive skills that robustly predict academic achievement. This emerging evidence is encouraging, however, there is still a lack of research on how this bilingual-EF advantage contributes to young DLLs’ school readiness in the context of early education classrooms. To better understand these factors, this study examined bilingual language, EF, and science achievement across the year in a sample of 424 Latino preschool DLLs across 38 Head Start classrooms. Children were assessed in the fall and spring on all measures, and observations of Spanish and English support in the classroom were conducted in the winter. Results from a cross-lag model demonstrated a significant bidirectional relationship between bilingual ability and EF across the year, and also indicated positive effects of both constructs on children’s science at the end of the year. Spanish and English support in the classroom did not influence the cross-lag paths between bilingual ability and EF across the year, however, English support appeared to moderate children’s EF from fall to spring, and Spanish support predicted both bilingual ability and EF at the end of the year. Results from this study help inform the mechanisms behind the bilingual-EF relationship and demonstrate positive effects on achievement. Additionally, findings highlight the importance of supporting English and Spanish for DLLs in the early childhood classroom.

Keywords

Dual Language Learners; executive functioning; bilingualism; science; early childhood; Head Start

Available for download on Thursday, June 27, 2019

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