The Social-emotional Development of Dual Language Learners: Looking Back at Existing Research and Moving Forward with Purpose

ReportFamiliesJan 4 2014

This review describes the state of existing knowledge with regard to dual language learners’ (DLLs) social–emotional development birth to age 5. The review focuses on several widely recognized dimensions of children’s social–emotional development: self-regulation, social competence, social cognition, and problem behaviors. We begin by presenting a theoretical perspective that frames our understanding of the interplay between relational and contextual factors that contribute to the social–emotional well-being of DLLs. A targeted search of the literature identified 14 peer-reviewed studies published from 2000 to 2011 that examined social–emotional outcomes for young DLLs in family, school, and peer contexts. Results suggest that DLLs have at least equal (if not better) social–emotional outcomes compared to native English speakers. There is also some evidence that the use of the home language in early childhood classrooms can be a positive, moderating factor for DLLs’ social–emotional development. Contextual and individual characteristics are highly correlated with DLL status, making it difficult to develop clear conclusions about the unique influence of DLL status on social–emotional outcomes. We conclude by identifying avenues for future inquiry.