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J Adolesc Health. 2015 Dec;57(6):587-94. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2015.07.001. Epub 2015 Aug 21.

An Internationally Comparative Study of Immigration and Adolescent Emotional and Behavioral Problems: Effects of Generation and Gender.

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Utrecht Centre for Child and Adolescent Studies, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands. Electronic address:
Department of Criminology, Bar Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Israel.
Centre for Primary Care and Public Health, Queen Mary University of London, London, United Kingdom.
Department of School Psychology and Child and Adolescent Development, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium.
National Institute of Public Health, University of Southern Denmark, København, Denmark.
Department of Public Health and Paediatrics, School of Medicine, University of Torino, Torino, Italy.
Health Promotion Research Centre, National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland.



Although the potential consequences of immigration for adolescent problem behaviors have been addressed in many former studies, internationally comparative research is scarce. This study investigated the impact of immigration on four indicators of adolescents' emotional and behavioral problems in 10 countries, taking into account gender and immigrant generation as moderating factors.


Analyses were based on data from 11-, 13-, and 15-year-old adolescents participating in the Health Behavior in School-aged Children study in Denmark, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, the United States, and Wales (total N = 53,218).


Both first- and second-generation immigrant adolescents reported higher levels of physical fighting and bullying and a lower life satisfaction than native adolescents, whereas second-generation immigrant adolescents reported more psychosomatic symptoms than native adolescents. Effect sizes varied considerable for the different outcomes, and similar effects were found for first- and second-generation immigrant adolescents. Differences in these indicators of emotional and behavioral problems between immigrant and native adolescents did not vary significantly with the receiving country. With two exceptions, effects of immigrant status were similar for boys and girls. Although no differences in psychosomatic symptoms were found between first-generation immigrant and native girls, first-generation immigrant boys reported less psychosomatic symptoms than native boys. Furthermore, both second-generation immigrant boys and girls reported higher levels of physical fighting than their native peers, but differences were more pronounced for boys than for girls.


Overall, the results of this study support a risk perspective on the impact of immigration on adolescent problem behaviors.


Emotional and behavioral problems; Gender; Immigrant generation; Immigration; International comparison

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