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Early executive function: The influence of culture and bilingualism



Evidence suggests that cultural experiences and learning multiple languages have measurable effects on children's development of executive function (EF). However, the precise impact of how bilingualism and culture contribute to observed effects remains inconclusive. The present study aims to investigate how these factors shape the development of early EF constructs longitudinally, between monolingual and bilingual children at ages 3, 3½ and 4 years, with a set of EF tasks that are uniquely relevant to the effects of bilingualism and cultural practices. We hypothesize that the effects of bilingualism and cultural backgrounds (i.e., Eastern) are based on different, though related, cognitive control processes associated with different EF constructs. Results revealed a significant bilingualism effect on cognitive control processes measuring selective attention, switching, and inhibition; while an effect of culture was most pronounced on behavioral regulation/response inhibition. Contributions of bilingualism and cultural experiences on individual EF constructs across development are discussed.


Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Crystal D. Tran, Department of Psychology, 3800 Montrose Boulevard, University of St. Thomas, Houston, TX


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* A version of this paper was presented at the Society for Research in Child Development meeting in 2011. This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health grant (R01 HD058620), Foundation for Child Development: Young Scholars Program, and the University of Houston's Grants to Enhance and Advance Research (GEAR) program. We especially want to extend our gratitude to the families and institutions in the U.S., Argentina, and Vietnam who participated in the present study, and Drs. Linda B. Smith and Larissa K. Samuelson for valuable feedback on a previous version of the manuscript.



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