Relations between Executive Functioning, Second Language Fluency, and Externalizing Behavior Problems in Early Childhood

Lindsey Hutchison

Advisor: Adam Winsler, PhD, Department of Psychology

Committee Members: Koraly Perez-Edgar, M. Layne Kalbfleisch

Enterprise Hall, #92
May 02, 2012, 02:30 PM to 12:00 PM


The current study explored relations between executive functioning (EF), degree of bilingualism, and externalizing behavior problems in a sample (N = 79) of 5- to 7-year-old monolingual and bilingual children. The bilingual group included children who are fully fluent in two languages (balanced bilinguals) and children still learning their second language (dual language learners; DLLs). The components of EF included behavioral inhibition, cognitive flexibility, and planning skills. During a one-time session, parents completed surveys on children’s behavior and children completed direct assessments of EF and language skills. Results revealed that balanced bilingual children did not demonstrate advantages over monolinguals in behavioral inhibition, while they were more advanced in cognitive control/flexibility and problem-solving skills. Contrary to prior research, there was some evidence that DLLs also had an advantage over monolinguals in cognitive flexibility. Parents reported slightly more behavior problems for balanced bilinguals compared to the other language groups. There was no evidence that EF mediated the relationship between language group/fluency and behavior problems.