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Executive control in Hispanic children: Considering linguistic and sociocultural factors

Miriam Marilu Martinez, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Executive control represents a collection of high-order cognitive processes that are associated with important child outcomes, including academic achievement and social competencies. Despite the burgeoning interest in examining the development of executive control, less is known about the development of these skills among ethnic minority children. Hispanic children are currently the largest ethnic minority group in the United States and their diverse sociocultural and linguistic backgrounds provide an excellent context to study the influence of linguistic and sociocultural factors on the development of child executive control. The purpose of the three complementary studies reported in this dissertation is to contribute to current literature on executive control by examining the effects of linguistic (i.e., Spanish-English bilingualism) and sociocultural (i.e., family socioeconomic status, parenting, and ethnic cultural values) factors on executive control among Hispanic preschoolers. Study 1 examines the validity of five neurocognitive tasks as assessments of executive control among bilingual Hispanic children. Study 2 considers the impact of Spanish-English bilingualism, as assessed by maternal reports of child language use and child vocabulary scores, on child executive control. Finally, Study 3 focuses on the effects of family socioeconomic status, parenting, cultural values and acculturative stress on child executive control. Study participants included 128 typically developing Hispanic preschoolers (i.e., three- to five-year-olds) and their mothers. The following results are notable. In Study 1, the five neurocognitive tasks were found to be valid indicators of executive control, and four of the five tasks held equivalent measurement properties for the English and Spanish versions of the tasks. In Study 2, child English-Spanish bilingualism, as measured by child vocabulary (but not mother-reported language use), was associated with higher executive control. Finally, in Study 3, household income was associated with higher executive control, while parenting, cultural values, and acculturative stress were not. The results of these studies suggest that child bilingualism and household income may contribute to executive control in Hispanic children.

Subject Area

Bilingual education|Developmental psychology|Cognitive psychology|Hispanic American studies

Recommended Citation

Martinez, Miriam Marilu, "Executive control in Hispanic children: Considering linguistic and sociocultural factors" (2014). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3632737.