Project Researchers

Project Description

Our study proposes to examine the social-emotional development of Yazidi youth living as refugees in London, Ontario. The Yazidi are a religious minority from Northern Iraq. In 2014, members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) launched an offensive against the Yazidi community (Cetroelli et al., 2017) which the United Nations Human Rights Council has officially classified as an ongoing genocide. Over 3,000 Yazidis were killed, and an additional 6,800 children and adults were subjected to forced conversion, torture, and sexual slavery (Kizilhan & Noll-Hussong, 2017). Between 1,000 to 1,500 Yazidi refugee families currently reside in Canada, many of whom possess limited formal education and lack proficiency in both of Canada’s official languages. These factors have created significant barriers to resettlement and integration in Canada (Canadian House of Commons, 2018).

The negative effects of political violence exposure on children’s mental and physical health is well documented (Barber, 2009; Masten & Narayan, 2012). The degree to which refugee youth experiencing extreme violence and displacement demonstrate impaired social-emotional functioning (e.g., prosocial behavior; empathy, peer relationships) has received little attention despite their central role in the development of child and adolescent health and wellbeing (Malti, 2016; Malti, Zuffiano, & Noam, 2017). Addressing this oversight is critically important given that youth survivors of war—as future parents, community leaders, and policy makers—play a central role in determining whether cycles of peace and violence are transmitted to the next generation.
In collaboration with the South London Neighbourhood Resource Centre (SLNRC) in London, Ontario, this study will utilize well-established assessments to determine profiles of social-emotional functioning—including prosocial tendencies, peer acceptance, socio-moral emotions, and narratives accounts of past experiences and challenges—of Yazidi refugees (N = 60; equally divided by gender) in middle childhood (7-11 years) and adolescence (12-17 years). Will conduct interviews with youth through a Kurdish-speaking interpreter. This information will be supplemented by teacher questionnaire ratings of children’s developmental outcomes, including prosociality, problem behaviors, and social adjustment.

Project Aims:

  1. Identify specific social-emotional competencies and areas for improvement in Yazidi refugee youth to ensure future interventions can effectively target the most pressing needs of this vulnerable population.
  2. Understand how the effects of war and trauma on youth’s social-emotional functioning differ by developmental period (child vs. adolescent) and youth gender (female vs. male). Doing so will inform best practices for tailoring strategies to match the needs of different subpopulations.
  3. Document how parents and youth understand and cope with their experiences of violence and displacement. Providing refugee families with their own voice will enhance a sense of connection to their communities while offering service providers and policy makers valuable insight into the challenges Yazidis continue to face in Canada.