The effects of bilingualism on toddlers' executive functioning

J Exp Child Psychol. 2011 Mar;108(3):567-79. doi: 10.1016/j.jecp.2010.10.009. Epub 2010 Nov 30.


Bilingual children have been shown to outperform monolingual children on tasks measuring executive functioning skills. This advantage is usually attributed to bilinguals' extensive practice in exercising selective attention and cognitive flexibility during language use because both languages are active when one of them is being used. We examined whether this advantage is observed in 24-month-olds who have had much less experience in language production. A battery of executive functioning tasks and the cognitive scale of the Bayley test were administered to 63 monolingual and bilingual children. Native bilingual children performed significantly better than monolingual children on the Stroop task, with no difference between groups on the other tasks, confirming the specificity of bilingual effects to conflict tasks reported in older children. These results demonstrate that bilingual advantages in executive control emerge at an age not previously shown.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Attention / physiology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Concept Formation / physiology
  • Executive Function / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Multilingualism*
  • Problem Solving / physiology
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Recognition, Psychology / physiology
  • Stroop Test
  • Task Performance and Analysis