Individual Differences and Second Language Acquisition among Low-Income Preschoolers

dc.contributor.authorRichard, Erin
dc.creatorRichard, Erin
dc.description.abstractSecond language acquisition has become a highly relevant, hotly debated topic in the United States. Of particular importance to early childhood researchers is how to most effectively educate young English language learners. Thus, a goal is to develop an understanding of the young language learner's school-related strengths and weaknesses. Existing literature has demonstrated associations between motivation, creativity, problem solving, language aptitude and bilingualism; however, the role of social-emotional skills in second language acquisition, particularly in young children, has been understudied. The study was an exploration of (1) an analysis of demographics and the role individual differences in cognitive/language skills and social-emotional skills play in English language acquisition and (2) the effects of first language proficiency on social-emotional development. Using a sample (n = 1,501) of diverse low-income preschoolers participating in the Miami School Readiness project, the present study aimed to illuminate the cognitive/language and social-emotional factors associated with successful second language acquisition during early childhood. Children were assessed in the areas of social-emotional skills and cognitive/language skills at the beginning of their preschool year and then social-emotional skills were assessed again at the end of the year. Finally, English proficiency was assessed a year later at the beginning of their kindergarten year. Multivariate analyses of variance were utilized to explicate the role of individual differences in social-emotional and cognitive/language skills among monolingual English, monolingual Spanish, and bilingual preschoolers. Findings demonstrated that Spanish-speaking preschoolers with higher levels of social-emotional and cognitive/language skills were more successful in obtaining English proficiency by kindergarten. Results indicated that demographic differences, cognitive and language skills, and social-emotional skills are all significantly related to success in second language acquisition. Further, after controlling for the effects of cognitive and language abilities and demographic differences, social-emotional skills maintained a significant association with the attainment of English-language proficiency. First language proficiency did not predict children's gains in social-emotional development. Findings suggest that social-emotional skills are a valuable resource for English language learners, specifically in this population of low-income, minority preschoolers.
dc.subjectSecond language acquisition
dc.subjectIndividual differences
dc.subjectSocial-emotional development
dc.titleIndividual Differences and Second Language Acquisition among Low-Income Preschoolers
dc.typeThesis Mason University's of Arts in Psychology


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