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Effects of home language environment on inhibitory control in bilingual three-year-old children*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 September 2015

Utrecht University
Utrecht University
Utrecht University
Address for correspondence: Dr. Josje Verhagen, Utrecht University, Department of Special Education: Cognitive and Motor Disabilities, Heidelberglaan 1, 3584 CS Utrecht, The Netherlands,


Previous studies have shown effects of bilingualism on inhibitory control in preschool children. However, these effects only held for ‘conflict tasks’, and not delay of gratification tasks, and other domains of executive functioning were not investigated. For older children, previous studies have found relationships between bilinguals’ advantages and home language environment. This study investigates effects of bilingualism and bilingual home language environment on executive functioning in three-year-old children. 200 bilingual and 829 monolingual three-year-olds performed tasks of inhibitory control, working memory, and selective attention. Home language environment characteristics were assessed through a parental questionnaire. The bilinguals outperformed the monolinguals on a conflict task only, and this effect was very small. Further analyses showed broader effects on inhibitory control that were related to home language environment: Bilinguals whose parents spoke different languages outperformed bilinguals whose parents spoke the same language on both the conflict task and a delay of gratification task.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2015 

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The Pre-COOL study was conducted in collaboration between the Department of Special Education at Utrecht University, the Kohnstamm Institute (KI) at the University of Amsterdam, and the Institute for Applied Social Sciences (ITS) at the Radboud University Nijmegen, and funded by the Dutch research council NWO (grant number 411–20–442). We are grateful to our project partners at the KI and the ITS. We are also grateful to all the children, families and day care centers who participated in our study.


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