Examining the Relationship Between Language Proficiency and Executive Function in Monolingual and Bilingual Children
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The mechanism behind the executive functioning advantage in bilinguals has not been well examined. Previous studies have proposed bilingual’s ability to inhibit and switch between languages as the driver behind this advantage. In the current study, we sought to identify the relationship between language proficiency, the proposed driver, and executive functioning, and differences therein, between bilinguals and monolinguals. 40 Spanish-English bilingual and 38 English monolingual preschool children were administered tests assessing language proficiency and executive functioning twice, with points of data collection being one year apart. Results showed that (controlling for executive functioning at Time 1 and age) language proficiency at Time 1 predicted performance on executive functioning tasks at Time 2 for monolinguals, but the reverse was not identified. No significant relationship was identified for bilinguals, contradicting the theoretical explanation for the bilingual advantage. Importantly, the difference in the relationship between executive functioning and language proficiency found between bilingual and monolingual children casts doubt on the suggestion that the advantage in executive functioning of bilinguals is due to linguistic aspects, and emphasizes the need for more research on the developmental differences between monolinguals and bilinguals. This project was completed with contributions from Vanessa Diaz from the Psychology Department, Virginia Tech.