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 Study relating to materials testing Detecting damages in non-magnetic steel through magnetism
23.07.2018 | Technische Universität Kaiserslautern

nachricht Innovative genetic tests for children with developmental disorders and epilepsy
11.07.2018 | Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel

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: It’s All in the Mix: Jülich Researchers are Developing Fast-Charging Solid-State Batteries

There are currently great hopes for solid-state batteries. They contain no liquid parts that could leak or catch fire. For this reason, they do not require cooling and are considered to be much safer, more reliable, and longer lasting than traditional lithium-ion batteries. Jülich scientists have now introduced a new concept that allows currents up to ten times greater during charging and discharging than previously described in the literature. The improvement was achieved by a “clever” choice of materials with a focus on consistently good compatibility. All components were made from phosphate compounds, which are well matched both chemically and mechanically.

The low current is considered one of the biggest hurdles in the development of solid-state batteries. It is the reason why the batteries take a relatively long...

Im Focus: Color effects from transparent 3D-printed nanostructures

New design tool automatically creates nanostructure 3D-print templates for user-given colors
Scientists present work at prestigious SIGGRAPH conference

Most of the objects we see are colored by pigments, but using pigments has disadvantages: such colors can fade, industrial pigments are often toxic, and...

Im Focus: Unraveling the nature of 'whistlers' from space in the lab

A new study sheds light on how ultralow frequency radio waves and plasmas interact

Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles present new research on a curious cosmic phenomenon known as "whistlers" -- very low frequency packets...

Im Focus: New interactive machine learning tool makes car designs more aerodynamic

Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.

When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...

Im Focus: Robots as 'pump attendants': TU Graz develops robot-controlled rapid charging system for e-vehicles

Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.

Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

LaserForum 2018 deals with 3D production of components

17.08.2018 | Event News

Within reach of the Universe

08.08.2018 | Event News

A journey through the history of microscopy – new exhibition opens at the MDC

27.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Air pollution leads to cardiovascular diseases

21.08.2018 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Researchers target protein that protects bacteria's DNA 'recipes'

21.08.2018 | Life Sciences

A paper battery powered by bacteria

21.08.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>