The benefits of being bilingual: working memory in bilingual Turkish-Dutch children

J Exp Child Psychol. 2014 Dec;128:105-19. doi: 10.1016/j.jecp.2014.06.007. Epub 2014 Aug 20.


Whether bilingual children outperform monolingual children on visuospatial and verbal working memory tests was investigated. In addition, relations among bilingual proficiency, language use at home, and working memory were explored. The bilingual Turkish-Dutch children (n=68) in this study were raised in families with lower socioeconomic status (SES) and had smaller Dutch vocabularies than Dutch monolingual controls (n=52). Having these characteristics, they are part of an under-researched bilingual population. It was found that the bilingual Turkish-Dutch children showed cognitive gains in visuospatial and verbal working memory tests when SES and vocabulary were controlled, in particular on tests that require processing and not merely storage. These findings converge with recent studies that have revealed bilingual cognitive advantages beyond inhibition, and they support the hypothesis that experience with dual language management influences the central executive control system that regulates processing across a wide range of task demands. Furthermore, the results show that bilingual cognitive advantages are found in socioeconomically disadvantaged bilingual populations and suggest that benefits to executive control are moderated by bilingual proficiency.

Keywords: Bilingualism; Child second language acquisition; Dutch; Executive control; Socioeconomic status; Turkish; Verbal working memory; Visuospatial working memory.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term*
  • Multilingualism*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Psychology, Child
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Vocabulary