Refugees often leave their countries to escape extreme conditions, such as war or violence. Experiencing such hardship may force refugee children to face multiple challenges when settled in their new country beyond those faced by other immigrant children. Although many immigrant children contend with post-migration language and cultural barriers, refugee children may be more likely to experience emotional challenges associated with pre-migration trauma.
- Lower emotional functioning in kindergarten was associated with an increased likelihood of a declining academic trajectory.
- Lower communication functioning in kindergarten was associated with a greater likelihood of a low-but-improving trajectory.
What is the research about?
The goal of the current study is to examine how emotional and communication functioning in kindergarten predicted the academic trajectories of refugee children.
What did the researchers do?
Researchers from the University of British Columbia followed 629 refugee children from age 5 to 13 and modeled their academic trajectory from kindergarten to Grade 7. They then investigated whether kindergarten emotional and communication functioning predicted a child’s academic trajectory.
Emotional and communication functioning were measured by the Early Development Instrument. Literacy and numeracy scores in Grade 4 and 7 were used as a measure of later academics.
Three academic trajectories were identified:
- Average (n = 438)
- Declining (n = 119)
- Low-But-Improving (n = 72)
What did the researchers find?
Compared to the average trajectory, lower emotional functioning in kindergarten was associated with an increased likelihood of a declining academic trajectory. In contrast, lower communication functioning in kindergarten was associated with a greater likelihood of a low-but-improving trajectory.
What does this research mean?
Refugee children are more likely to overcome early communication challenges versus emotional challenges to be successful academically.
This finding supports the idea that non-cognitive skills, in addition to cognitive skills, are important for academic success.
It also speaks to the supports refugee children require. Programs serving refugee children should go beyond basic communication support and include support for emotional challenges.