Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Speaking Two Languages Also Benefits Low-Income Children

28.08.2012
Living in poverty is often accompanied by conditions that can negatively influence cognitive development. Is it possible that being bilingual might counteract these effects?
Although previous research has shown that being bilingual enhances executive functioning in middle-class children, less is known about how it affects lower income populations.

In a study forthcoming in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, psychological scientist Pascale Engel de Abreu of the University of Luxembourg and colleagues examine the effects of speaking two languages on the executive functioning of low-income children.

“Low-income children represent a vulnerable population,” says Engel de Abreu. “Studying cognitive processes in this population is of great societal importance and represents a significant advancement in our understanding of childhood development.”

Existing research, conducted with older bilingual children and bilingual adults from middle class backgrounds, suggests that knowing two languages may have different effects on different aspects of executive functioning: while being bilingual seems to have a positive influence on the ability to direct and focus attention (control), researchers have found no such benefit for how people encode and structure knowledge in memory (representation).

Engel de Abreu and her colleagues hypothesized that this pattern would also hold for younger bilingual children who were low-income.

A total of 80 second graders from low-income families participated in the study. Half of the children were first or second generation immigrants to Luxembourg, originally from Northern Portugal, who spoke both Luxembourgish and Portuguese on a daily basis. The other half of the children lived in Northern Portugal and spoke only Portuguese.

The researchers first tested the children’s vocabularies by asking them to name items presented in pictures. Both groups completed the task in Portuguese and the bilingual children also completed the task in Luxembourgish.

To examine how the children represented knowledge in memory, the researchers asked them to find a missing piece that would complete a specific geometric shape. The researchers also measured the children’s memory, using two different tasks to see how much visual information the children could keep in mind at a given time.

The children then participated in two tasks that looked at their ability to direct and focus their attention when distractions were present. In the first task, they had to find and match 20 pairs of spacecrafts as quickly as possible, a task that depended on their ability to ignore all the non-matching spacecrafts. In the second task, the children were presented with a row of yellow fish on a computer screen and they had to press a button to indicate which direction the fish in the center was facing. The other fish either pointed in the same or opposite direction of the fish in the middle.

Although the bilingual children knew fewer words than their monolingual peers, and did not show an advantage for representation tasks, they performed better on the control tasks than did the monolingual children, just as the researchers hypothesized.

“This is the first study to show that, although they may face linguistic challenges, minority bilingual children from low-income families demonstrate important strengths in other cognitive domains,” says Engel de Abreu.

The researchers believe that the findings could inform efforts to reduce the achievement gap between children of different socioeconomic backgrounds. “Our study suggests that intervention programs that are based on second language teaching are a fruitful avenue for future research,” says Engel de Abreu. “Teaching a foreign language does not involve costly equipment, it widens children’s linguistic and cultural horizons, and it fosters the healthy development of executive control.”

For more information about this study, please contact: Pascale Engel de Abreu at Pascale.Engel@uni.lu.

The APS journal Psychological Science is the highest ranked empirical journal in psychology. For a copy of the article "Bilingualism Enriches the Poor: Enhanced Cognitive Control in Low-Income Minority Children" and access to other Psychological Science research findings, please contact Anna Mikulak at 202-293-9300 or amikulak@psychologicalscience.org.

Anna Mikulak | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.psychologicalscience.org

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Do microplastics harbour additional risks by colonization with harmful bacteria?
05.04.2018 | Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung Warnemünde

nachricht Rutgers-led innovation could spur faster, cheaper, nano-based manufacturing
14.02.2018 | Rutgers University

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: BAM@Hannover Messe: innovative 3D printing method for space flight

At the Hannover Messe 2018, the Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und-prüfung (BAM) will show how, in the future, astronauts could produce their own tools or spare parts in zero gravity using 3D printing. This will reduce, weight and transport costs for space missions. Visitors can experience the innovative additive manufacturing process live at the fair.

Powder-based additive manufacturing in zero gravity is the name of the project in which a component is produced by applying metallic powder layers and then...

Im Focus: Molecules Brilliantly Illuminated

Physicists at the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics, which is jointly run by Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, have developed a high-power laser system that generates ultrashort pulses of light covering a large share of the mid-infrared spectrum. The researchers envisage a wide range of applications for the technology – in the early diagnosis of cancer, for instance.

Molecules are the building blocks of life. Like all other organisms, we are made of them. They control our biorhythm, and they can also reflect our state of...

Im Focus: Spider silk key to new bone-fixing composite

University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.

Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.

Im Focus: Writing and deleting magnets with lasers

Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.

Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...

Im Focus: Gamma-ray flashes from plasma filaments

Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.

The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

IWOLIA: A conference bringing together German Industrie 4.0 and French Industrie du Futur

09.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Quantum Technology for Advanced Imaging – QUILT

24.04.2018 | Information Technology

AWI researchers measure a record concentration of microplastic in arctic sea ice

24.04.2018 | Earth Sciences

Complete skin regeneration system of fish unraveled

24.04.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>