Executive functioning performance of bilingual and monolingual children with a traumatic brain injury

Executive functioning performance of bilingual and monolingual children with a traumatic brain injury

Isabel Gonzalez, Psy.D., LMHC, LMFT1, Miriam J. Rodríguez, Ph.D2, Isaac Tourgeman, Ph.D3, Suzan Tanner Woodward, Ph.D.4

ABSTRACT

Objective. The main purpose of this research study was to assess the difference between bilingual speakers and monolingual children who have sustained a TBI and their performance on a measure of executive functioning. It is hypothesized that 1) age would be a significant contributor to performance on executive functioning tasks, 2) neurocognitive performance on measures of executive functioning will be lower for the TBI group as compared to the control group, and 3) neurocognitive performance on measures of executive functioning will be lower for monolingual as compared to bilingual peers. Method. The total sample consisted of 48 children. Each subject was administered the D-KEFS (1), as part of a larger neuropsychological battery. The hypotheses were tested using appropriate independent-samples tests to determine whether statistically signif- icant differences existed in executive functioning performance between groups. Furthermore, age was treated as a continuous variable, and was tested for nor- mality. Results: Significant difference were found between the TBI and Control groups for CW4 [t(36)=3.121, p =.003], TMT 2 [t(40)=3.175, p =.003], and TMT 3 [t(40)=3.259, p =.002]. When comparing the performance of monolinguals and bilinguals, statistically significant results where found for the control group (Mann Whitney U = 11, n1=10, n2=6, p=0.044), but not for the TBI group (Mann Whitney U = 54, n1=11, n2=10, p=0.968). Age was not found to be be a significant contributor to performance. Conclusion. Bilinguals without a TBI demonstrated a significant advantage in a verbal task of inhibition and switching. Overall results demonstrate children’s higher order functioning abilities are significantly impacted by a TBI. Interestingly, bilingual children seem to be at an increased risk of executive functioning impairments after a TBI. This could be the result of a newly acquired skill and the damage to a less mature region of the brain.

1, 2, 3 Albizu University, Miami, Florida.
4 Jackson Memorial Hospital, Miami, Florida. Director, Pediatric Neuropsychology Program (Retired)

Keywords:

executive functioning, brain injury, bilingualism, children.

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