Chapter 13. Executive functions in bilingual children

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As part of the ongoing debate regarding possible bilingual advantages in executive functions, the current study compared bilingual Russian-Hebrew speaking children from two age groups (preschool and sixth grade) with their monolingual Hebrew speaking peers, matched on socio-cultural background. Bilingual children’s vocabulary knowledge in both languages was measured objectively as an index of proficiency, and children were classified as balanced or unbalanced bilinguals. Participants performed a flanker task, measuring both inhibitory ability and cognitive flexibility. The bilingual preschoolers were not advantaged over monolinguals, possibly as a result of proficiency profiles. The sixth grade bilinguals showed some advantages over monolinguals in inhibition, but these were limited to the balanced bilinguals, who were able to achieve and maintain comparable levels of proficiency in their two languages. These findings suggest that only the demands posed by balanced bilingualism and strong competition between the two languages, might lead to EF advantages, specifically in inhibition.


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