Is There an Association between Executive Function and Receptive Vocabulary in Bilingual Children? A Longitudinal Examination
Dual language management has been proposed as the reason for bilingual children’s sometimes enhanced executive functioning (EF). We sought to identify the directionality of the relation between language proficiency and EF, using measures of receptive vocabulary, inhibitory control, and cognitive flexibility. Data were collected twice, a year apart, on 35- to 66.8-month-old bilingual (n = 41, M = 49.19 months) and monolingual preschool children (n = 37, M = 47.82 months). The longitudinal results revealed that while the monolingual children’s vocabulary at Time 1 predicted EF at Time 2, EF at Time 1 did not predict vocabulary at Time 2. In contrast, for bilingual children the relation was not present at all. The results were similar after the one-time analyses. The absence of relations between EF and language in bilinguals, while present in monolinguals, challenges the current conceptualization of the EF advantage in bilinguals, and emphasizes the need for more research on the development of bilingual children.