Social-cognitive development of bilingual and monolingual children
Sperling, Mindy Toby
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The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of bilingual proficiency on role-taking abilities. Forty-eight bilingual (n = 24) and monolingual children (n = 24) from 4 to 7 years of age were tested.;Two types of tasks were administered to all subjects: cognitive tasks and a language measure of receptive vocabulary. The cognitive tasks included Raven's Coloured Progressive Matrices (a non-verbal intelligence test) and two role-taking tasks: Chandler's Bystander Cartoons and Borke's Interpersonal Task. These measures were designed to assess children's ability to (1) discover abstract relations among several parts of a figure and to (2) take the perspective of one or more story characters. The measures of cognitive abilities were administered in Spanish or English, depending on the child's first acquired or preferred language. On the language measure, bilingual subjects were tested in both Spanish and English; monolingual subjects were tested in English only.;Parents were interviewed to obtain information about the child's language background, socioeconomic level and parents' educational attainment.;A correlational design was used to test the main hypothesis that bilingual and social-cognitive development were related. The independent variables were age, sex, intelligence and relative proficiency levels for each language; the outcome variables were levels of social-cognitive skill on both role-taking measures.;T-tests were conducted to test the significance of the difference in test performance between monolingual and bilingual groups. Product-moment correlations and partial correlation coefficients were calculated to indicate the degree of association between the measures used, while controlling for the effects of age and non-verbal intelligence.;Results indicated that bilinguals significantly outperformed monolinguals on both role-taking measures, although monolinguals gave better picture descriptions. Bilinguals were more communicative about what was perceived to be the innermost thoughts and feelings of story characters, whereas monolinguals gave more factual accounts of story events. The findings supported the initial hypotheses that the children's bilingual proficiency status and their level of overall performance on both social-cognitive measures were positively related.