Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Program Name/Specialization

Developmental Psychology


Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Alexandra Gottardo

Advisor Role



The Government of Canada has supported and provided assistance to welcome and receive Syrian refugees. Since late 2015, the Government of Canada has resettled 40,081 Syrian refugees, and families with young children constitute most of the refugees (Government of Canada, 2016). After arriving in Canada, refugee children continue to be at a disadvantage due to challenges related to language proficiency and literacy skills. The purpose of this study was to examine factors that contribute to the successes and challenges in language and literacy development in both languages, Arabic as the first language (L1) and English as the second language (L2) of Syrian refugee children. Seventeen Syrian refugee families with children between the ages of six and twelve years old were recruited. Two children from each family were recruited into one of two groups, a younger age group (6 to 8 years) and an older age group (9-12 years) with 16 males and 18 females for a total of 34 children. Several measures (receptive vocabulary, phonological awareness, morphological awareness, and word reading) were used to assess children’s language and literacy skills in both languages. Also, parents were interviewed to explore the child and family factors that could correlate with the language and literacy development. The outcomes revealed that the individual factors related to child development (i.e., cognitive abilities, chronological age, age of arrival, and length of exposure to the L2, and attending school) play a significant role in the L1 and L2 acquisition. The results revealed that phonological awareness skill was a strong and unique predictor of word reading within and a cross language among bilingual Syrian refugee children. Finally, the findings of this study provided baseline information on the levels of language and literacy achieved by Syrian refugee children who recently settled in Canada.

Convocation Year