Executive function of Spanish-speaking language-minority preschoolers: Structure and relations with early literacy skills and behavioral outcomes

Christopher J. Lonigan, Matthew D. Lerner, J. Marc Goodrich, Amber L. Farrington, Darcey M. Allan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Young children's executive function (EF) is increasingly recognized as an important construct associated with development in cognitive and socioemotional domains. To date, however, few studies have examined EF in populations of language-minority children. In this study, 241 Spanish-speaking language-minority preschoolers who ranged in age from 38 to 69 months (M = 54.23 months, SD = 6.17) completed three tasks designed to measure inhibitory control (IC) and four tasks designed to measure working memory (WM). Children completed assessments of their vocabulary skills, early literacy skills, and behavioral self-regulation in both English and Spanish, and their classroom teachers completed three behavior rating measures. Children were classified as more proficient in English or Spanish based on their scores on the vocabulary measures, and all IC and WM measures were administered in the children's more proficient language. Results of confirmatory factor analyses supported a two-factor model of EF for both groups of children as well as strong measurement and structural invariance across groups. Children's EF was substantially related to the language, early literacy, and behavioral self-regulation measures as well as teacher ratings of inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity. For children with more proficient English, EF was associated with skills in both English and Spanish; however, for children with more proficient Spanish, EF was associated primarily with skills in Spanish. These results provide evidence of strong correspondence for EF measured in Spanish-speaking language-minority preschoolers and monolingual preschoolers, and they identify a potential key factor that can enhance understanding of development in this population of children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)46-65
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Experimental Child Psychology
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Academic skills
  • Bilingual
  • English as second language
  • Executive function
  • Inhibitory control
  • Language minority
  • Preschool
  • Working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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