31 SES 16 A, Cognitive and Socio-emotional Skills as Driving Motors of Dual Language Learning
Social-emotional competencies in early childhood facilitate the development of adaptive social, emotional, and academic functioning (Denham et al., 2012). Since language is only acquired during communication with others (Tomasello, 1992), social-emotional skills may be particularly important among dual language learners (DLLs), as they must be able to navigate social interactions in contexts where their language skills are more limited. Prior research suggests that better skills in the societal language may promote children’s social-emotional competence (e.g. Ertanir et al., 2020). In this study, we further explore the association between social-emotional functioning in a caregiving setting, and language skills. Participants (N=192) were 32-78 months-old children (M=50.02 months, SD=7.61), including 103 single language learners (SLLs), speaking either Swiss or High German or French; and 89 DLLs, growing up with Italian or Turkish at home and Swiss German, French or High-German outside the home. Children were tested at the university lab, child-care facilities, or family home. Questionnaires were distributed to educators (N=101) from daycares, playgroups, and kindergartens. Children’s language was measured by receptive vocabulary, measured by the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (e.g., Stella et. al, 2000); productive vocabulary, measured by a Picture Naming Test (e.g., Kiese-Himmel, 2005); and sentence comprehension, assessed using a picture-choice task (e.g., Lecocq, 1998). Language was measured in both the home and societal languages. Societal language and home language composites were created by averaging z-scores across the assessments. Educators filled out the Social Skills Scale (Denham, 2005) and the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ; Goodman, 2001), containing the subscales Peer Relationships and Prosocial Behaviour. Regression analyses were run using Mplus v8 with FIML. Age in months; nonverbal reasoning, measured by the Categories subtest of the SON-R; and sex were included as covariates. Among DLLs, overall ability in the societal language was significantly associated with children’s social skills and peer relationships in a caregiving setting. However, there was no significant association between language skills and either social skills or peer relationships among SLLs. There was also no association between DLLs’ home language with either social skills or peer relationships. Language was not significantly associated with prosocial behavior among DLLs or SLLs. These findings suggest that skills in the societal language are particularly important for children’s social functioning in the caregiving context. This has important ramifications for educators, who may need to provide extra support to facilitate the social-emotional development of DLLs with lower language proficiency.
Denham, S. A. (2005). Parent rating scale of social competence. Unpublished manuscript, National Institute for Child Health and Human Development at Bethesda, MD, USA. Denham, S. A., Bassett, H. H., Thayer, S. K., Mincic, M. S., Sirotkin, Y. S., & Zinsser, K. (2012a). Observing preschoolers’ social-emotional behavior: Structure, foundations, and prediction of early school success. The Journal of Genetic Psychology, 173(3), 246-278. Ertanir, B., Kaiser‐Kratzmann, J., & Sachse, S. (2020). Long‐term interrelations between socio‐emotional and language competencies among preschool dual language learners in Germany. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 1-20. Goodman, R. (2001). Psychometric properties of the strengths and difficulties questionnaire. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 40(11), 1337-1345. Kiese-Himmel, C. (2005). AWST-R-Aktiver Wortschatztest für 3-bis 5-Jährige Kinder (AWST-R–Active Vocabulary Test for 3-to 5-Year-Old Children). Hogrefe. Lecocq, P. (1998). L’É.CO.S.SE une épreuve de compréhension syntaxico-sémantique (manuel et épreuve): Deux volumes. Presses Univ. Septentrion. Stella, G., Pizzoli, C., & Tressoldi, P. (2000). Peabody picture vocabulary test. Italian adaptation. Omega Edizioni. Tomasello, M. (1992). The social bases of language acquisition. Social Development, 1, 67-87.
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