Psychosocial adaptation of adolescent migrants in a Swiss community survey

Steinhausen, Hans-Christoph ; Bearth-Carrari, Cinzia ; Winkler Metzke, Christa

In: Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 2009, vol. 44, no. 4, p. 308-316

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    Objective: The aim of this study was to compare psychosocial adaptation in adolescent (first generation) migrants, double-citizens (mainly second generation with one migrant parent), and native Swiss, and to compare migrants from various European regions. Method: Data from a community survey were based on 1,239 participants (mean age 13.8, SD=1.6years) with 996 natives, 55 double-citizens, and 188 migrants. The adolescents completed the youth self-report measuring emotional and behavioural problems, and various questionnaires addressing life events, personality variables, perceived parental behaviour (PPB), family functioning, school environment, and social network. Results: Adolescent migrants had significantly higher scores for internalizing and externalizing problems. There was a pattern of various unfavourable psychosocial features including life events, coping, self-related cognitions, and PPB that was more common among adolescent migrants than natives. Double-citizens were similar to natives in all domains. Young adolescents from South and South-East Europe differed from natives in terms of more unfavourable psychosocial features. Migrant status was best predicted by adverse psychosocial features rather than emotional and behavioural problems. Conclusion: There is some indication that certain migrant adolescents are at risk of psychosocial mal-adaptation. Obviously, ethnic origin is an important moderator