Emotional and Behavioral Problems Among Adolescent Students: The Role of Immigrant, Racial/Ethnic Congruence and Belongingness in Schools Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • As levels of immigration and ethnic diversity continue to rise in most Western societies, the social demography of schools is changing rapidly. Although schools represent a prominent developmental context, relatively little is known about the extent to which the racial/ethnic composition of schools influences mental health outcomes in students. The objective of the present study is to examine the association between immigrant and racial/ethnic congruence in school-the numerical representation of a student's immigrant generational status and race/ethnicity in the student body-and levels of emotional and behavioral problems. This study also examines the extent to which the association between congruence and emotional-behavioral problems differs across racial/ethnic immigrant sub-groups and is accounted for by individual perceptions of school belonging. Data come from the in-school survey of the Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health) conducted in the United States. The sample is nationally representative, and includes 128 schools and 77,150 adolescents in grades 7-12 (50 % female, M age = 14.9 years, SD = 1.78). After controlling for school and family socio-demographic characteristics, immigrant and racial/ethnic congruence in school exhibited a negative association with emotional and behavioral problems for most sub-groups examined. School belonging was associated negatively with emotional and behavioral problems, and partially accounted for the effects linked to congruence in schools. The immigrant and racial/ethnic composition of schools and perceptions of belonging have strong links with emotional and behavioral problems and may represent important targets for intervention.

publication date

  • September 2013

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