An internationally comparative study of immigration and adolescent emotional and behavioral problems: effects of generation and gender

Gonneke W J M Stevens*, Sophie D. Walsh, Timothy Hubertus Maria Huijts, Marlies Maes, Katrine Rich Madsen, Franco Cavallo, Michal Molcho

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose 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. Methods 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). Results 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. Conclusions Overall, the results of this study support a risk perspective on the impact of immigration on adolescent problem behaviors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)587-594
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2015


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

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