Well-Being and Learning: Processes of Resilience in Refugee Children

Researchers: Irene Vitoroulis1, Steve Songtao Wang2, Jennifer Jenkins2, Adriana Soto Corominas3, Redab Al-Janaideh2, Xi Becky Chen2, Kathy Georgiades4, Johanne Paradis5, Alexandria Gottardo6
Affiliation: University of Ottawa1, University of Toronto2, Universitat Internacional de Catalunya3, McMaster University4, University of Alberta5, Wilfred Laurier University6
Keywords: Syrian refugee children, families, resilience, well-being, mental health, sense of school belonging, language learning, bullying, quantitative research, longitudinal study
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Overview: This study examined the associations between language learning, a sense of school belonging, bullying, and mental health among recently resettled Syrian refugee children over a three-year period. This study is a collaboration with a CYRRC project from the Language and Learning cluster to explore the relationship between learning and well-being in Syrian refugee children.


Research Justification: Studies have found that students with a higher sense of school belonging tend to have better emotional, behavioural, and academic outcomes. Research also shows that the degree to which refugee children develop a sense of belonging depends largely on the extent to which they acquire proficiency in the host language.

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Executive Summary


This project followed 126 Syrian children (6 to 13 years old) from 71 families who had resettled in Canada. The participants resided in one of three English-majority cities – Edmonton, Waterloo, and Toronto. All participants attended English-language elementary and middle schools (grades 1-8). Most children were in classrooms with other English language learners and monolinguals. They received English-as-a-second-language support through within-classroom programming and/or a pullout system.

Data was collected at three time points over three years. A latent growth model, with the three waves of data modeled over three years, was used to examine participants’ sense of school belonging over time. A sense of school belonging was defined as students’ attachment to school, interest, and faith in the educational environment. A within-family, longitudinal design and multilevel growth curve modeling was used to understand differences in language competence among siblings.


Sense of School Belonging Over Time:

Sense of School Belonging, Bullying & Language:

Language & Mental Health:


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