Publication Date

2014-10-29

Availability

Open access

Embargo Period

2014-10-29

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Psychology (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense

2014-07-21

First Committee Member

Daryl Greenfield

Second Committee Member

Rebecca Shearer

Third Committee Member

Batya Elbaum

Abstract

Executive functions (EF) are an important aspect of school readiness that have been shown to predict higher achievement in language, math, and science starting in the early years (Blair & Razza, 2007; Bull, Espy, & Wiebe, 2008; Nayfeld, Fuccillo, & Greenfield, 2013; Ponitz, McClelland, Matthews, & Morrison, 2009). Children who are bilingual have been shown to have enhanced EF skills when compared to their monolingual peers (Bialystok & Viswanathan, 2009; Carlson & Meltzoff, 2008; Poulin-Dubois, Blaye, Coutya, & Bialystok, 2011; Riggs, Shin, Unber, Spruijt-Metz, Pentz, 2013). While this association has been found among children of different ages, languages, and socioeconomic statuses, to date, no study has addressed this relationship in low-income bilingual Latino preschoolers, one of the fastest growing populations of children in the United States (Barrueco, Lopez, Ong, & Lozano, 2012). The current study examined the link between the degree of bilingualism and EF in a sample of 303 Spanish- and English-speaking Head Start preschoolers. Data on children’s language ability and EF were collected. Results revealed that bilingual children performed better than monolingual children on EF, and that the degree of bilingualism predicted EF in the entire sample. Findings from this study offer new insights into both the language and cognitive development of young Latinos growing up in the United States. These findings can help inform teachers and policy-makers about the importance of fostering dual-language learning and executive functioning in preschool, especially in at-risk bilingual populations.

Keywords

preschool; executive functioning; bilingualism; dual-language learners; Latinos; school readiness

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