Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Speaking two languages also benefits low-income children

Date:
August 27, 2012
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
Living in poverty is often accompanied by conditions that can negatively influence cognitive development. Can being bilingual 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.

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.

Related Articles


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."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Engel de Abreu et al. Bilingualism Enriches the Poor: Enhanced Cognitive Control in Low-Income Minority Children. Psychological Science, 2012

Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "Speaking two languages also benefits low-income children." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 August 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120827162057.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2012, August 27). Speaking two languages also benefits low-income children. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 25, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120827162057.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "Speaking two languages also benefits low-income children." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120827162057.htm (accessed January 25, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

How Technology Is Ruining Snow Days For Students

How Technology Is Ruining Snow Days For Students

Newsy (Jan. 25, 2015) More schools are using online classes to keep from losing time to snow days, but it only works if students have Internet access at home. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Smart Wristband to Shock Away Bad Habits

Smart Wristband to Shock Away Bad Habits

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Jan. 23, 2015) A Boston start-up is developing a wristband they say will help users break bad habits by jolting them with an electric shock. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Amazing Technology Allows Blind Mother to See Her Newborn Son

Amazing Technology Allows Blind Mother to See Her Newborn Son

RightThisMinute (Jan. 23, 2015) Not only is Kathy seeing her newborn son for the first time, but this is actually the first time she has ever seen a baby. Kathy and her sister, Yvonne, have been legally blind since childhood, but thanks to an amazing new technology, eSight glasses, which gives those who are legally blind the ability to see, she got the chance to see the birth of her son. It&apos;s an incredible moment and an even better story. Video provided by RightThisMinute
Powered by NewsLook.com
One Dose, Then Surgery to Test Tumor Drugs Fast

One Dose, Then Surgery to Test Tumor Drugs Fast

AP (Jan. 23, 2015) A Phoenix hospital is experimenting with a faster way to test much needed medications for deadly brain tumors. Patients get a single dose of a potential drug, and hours later have their tumor removed to see if the drug had any affect. (Jan. 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins