This research project aimed to contribute to the literature gap on how our communities may support the adjustment needs of refugee children. This study examined the relationships between school and community resources and the social-emotional and academic adjustment of refugee children. Participants were 214 first-generation refugee children (G1) and 636 second generation refugee children (G2) living in British Columbia (B.C.). Participants completed the Middle Years Development Instrument; measures of school and community resources and social-emotional adjustment were operationalized and statistically analyzed.
The study found several relationships between school and community resources and social-emotional and academic adjustment: residing in a low-income neighbourhood was related to lower academic scores among G1+2 refugee children; supportive school climate and support from adults at school related to better social-emotional adjustment for both G1 and G1+2 children; adult support at home related to better social-emotional adjustment for G1 and G1+2 children and better academic adjustment for G1+2 children; peer belonging related to better social-emotional adjustment for both G1 and G1+2 children; experiences of bullying were related to worse social-emotional adjustment and worse academic adjustment for both G1 and G1+2 refugee children.
These findings indicate that refugee children who felt supported by teachers and other adults in schools as well as those who perceived their school climate as a positive, supportive environment tended to experience better social-emotional and academic adjustment. Service providers and policy makers may use this information to inform and guide efforts to promote positive social contexts, and educate teachers, community members, and refugee families about the critical importance that their social support may play for the adjustment of refugee children in Canada. Rather than solely focusing on challenges, ill-being, and maladjustment of refugee persons in Canada, it is important to also consider how we can support and help the academic and social-emotional adjustment of refugee children, and it is especially useful to know that schools, communities, and families all are likely to have a key role to play.