Mental health problems and school outcomes among immigrant and non-immigrant early adolescents in Norway.


Mental health problems in children and adolescents, especially those of immigrant backgrounds, have been of major concern in recent literature. Symptoms of emotional, conduct, or a combination of these problems, furthermore, can impact, and be impacted by, school-related outcomes, such as perceived school stress, classmate support, and teacher support. The present study assessed whether having high levels of such symptoms would predict these school outcomes in 2,248 Norwegian adolescent students between fifth and eighth grades, 51 % of whom were of immigrant background. Seventy-three percent of the immigrant students were second generation. Findings indicate that there are more similarities than differences between immigrant and non-immigrant youth. Immigrant and non-immigrant girls did not differ in prevalence of any symptom category, while immigrant and non-immigrant boys did not differ in conduct problems or comorbid emotional and conduct problems. More immigrant than non-immigrant boys in our sample were in the high-risk group of emotional problems, indicating that this may be a particularly vulnerable group. Our results indicate that disordered symptom groups better explained perceived school stress and classmate support than immigrant status. School stress and low support from classmates were associated with high risk for emotional, conduct, and comorbid problems for all youth, regardless of immigrant status. These findings are encouraging because they indicate that second generation immigrant youth in Norway may not be at greater risk for developing emotional and conduct problems when compared to their non-immigrant peers.