Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

School Name

Annsley Frazier Thornton School of Education



Major Advisor

Dr. Mary Ann Cahill

Second Advisor

Dr. Grant Smith

Third Advisor

Prof. Victoria Lyalina


Due to conflicts in different parts of the world or the prospect of a better life, there are tremendous numbers of immigrants around the world. This study investigates the effect of language learning by immigrants on the level of boundary ambiguity they experience as a result of being separated from extended family. Through the lens of acculturation theory (Schumann, 1976), the study examines if learning a new language helps the immigrant to function within the culture of the host country. In addition, the study relies on the Contextual Model of Family Stress to ascertain if individual, family, or community resources help an immigrant tolerate boundary ambiguity (Boss, Bryant, & Mancini, 2017). Two research questions have driven the study: 1) How does learning English impact levels of boundary ambiguity among Iraqi and Syrian immigrants residing in the United States? 2) How does gender, age, nationality, number of family members who also immigrated, years residing in the United States, and semesters learning English affect levels of boundary ambiguity? The study finds that levels English proficiency, nationality, and number of family members who also immigrate significantly impact the level of boundary ambiguity immigrants experience.