Early childhood marks a time of dynamic development within language and cognitive domains. Specifically, a body of research focuses on the development of language as related to executive functions, which are foundational cognitive skills that relate to both academic achievement and social-emotional development during early childhood and beyond. Although there is evidence to support the relationship between language and executive functions, existing studies focus mostly on vocabulary and fail to examine other components of language such as syntax and language learning skills. To address this gap, this study examined the relationship between executive functioning (EF) and three aspects of language: syntax, vocabulary, and language learning. A diverse sample of 182 children (67% Latino and 33% African American) attending Head Start were assessed on both EF and language ability. Findings demonstrated that EF related to a comprehensive latent construct of language composed of vocabulary, syntax, and language learning. EF also related to each individual component of language. This study furthers our understanding of the complex relationship between language and cognitive development by measuring EF as it relates to various components of language in a sample of preschoolers from low-income backgrounds.
- Executive functioning (EF) related to a latent variable of children’s language ability, comprising vocabulary, syntax, and language learning processes, in a sample of preschool children attending Head Start.
- EF also related to each individual component of language, replicating previous associations found between EF and vocabulary, and extending this to syntax and language learning components, respectively.
- There were unique, but differential associations between EF and each language component, when controlling for the other two language components.