Det samfunnsvitenskapelige fakultet
Det samfunnsvitenskapelige fakultet
Emotional problems in preadolescence: Immigrant background, school difficulties, and family factors
Alves, Daniele Evelin
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This thesis investigates emotional problems in preadolescents with immigrant background. Possible risk and protective factors for emotional problems across immigrant and non-immigrant background, as well as across specific immigrant groups were investigated, with particular emphasis on family and academic factors. It is important to undertake studies of immigrants and children of immigrants from an early age. Also, cultural differences may lead to different definitions and expressions of emotional problems. Immigrant populations may be more vulnerable to risk factors such as poverty, and there is a higher likelihood that their problems will go undetected by teachers. Moreover, their parents may lack general knowledge about how to navigate the school and mental health-care systems in order to provide help for their children. The school is an important arena for the social integration of immigrant children, and successful school adaption is one way to increase minorities’ influence and participation in society.
One thousand six hundred and three 10 to 12-year olds from the two largest cities in Norway (Oslo and Bergen) were invited to the first wave of the «Youth, Culture and Competence» study. Participants were strategically sampled to provide a high percentage of immigrants. The participation rate was approximately 65 %, and participants were grouped according to parental nativity. Participants were divided into three groups: (1) immigrant background (defined by both parents and most grandparents being born abroad; also referred to as minority), (2) non-immigrant background (defined by both parents and most grandparents born in Norway; also referred to as ethnic Norwegian or majority), and (3) dual ethnic status (defined as having one immigrant and one non-immigrant parent). Only those with immigrant and non-immigrant background were included in the thesis, because those with dual ethnic status had a mix of immigrant and non-immigrant backgrounds that may require especial attention. Of the included participants, 47 % had immigrant background (n = 427). Of those with immigrant background, all had non-Western immigrant background, and the three largest national groups were from: Pakistan (n = 124), Turkey (n = 45) and Sri Lanka (n = 43). A self-administered questionnaire containing questions about mental health (including the SDQ, parental achievement values, EMBU-C, and the General Everyday Hassles scale) was administered to 5th to 7th graders in 14 schools during school lessons, as well as after school for those from Turkey and Sri Lanka. Background variables such as gender, ethnic status (i.e. majority/minority), grade level (age), perceived economic hardship (SES), and city background (Oslo/Bergen) were adjusted for. In addition, school-related variables were controlled for, when appropriate, in order to elucidate the unique relationships among the main variables of interest in the study.
This thesis comprises three papers applying different theoretical and methodological approaches to address aspects of emotional problems in preadolescence across ethnic backgrounds. It contributes to the research field encompassing preadolescents with immigrant background, a subpopulation that is often underrepresented in mental health research. The first paper represents the first approach by stratifying the sample into four different groups (immigrant boys, immigrant girls, non-immigrant boys, and non-immigrant girls), and investigating whether home and school hassles (difficulties related to the home and the school) could account for higher levels of emotional symptoms in immigrant boys, as compared to the three other groups. Findings suggest that school hassles, but not home hassles, accounted for the higher levels of emotional symptoms in boys with immigrant background, as compared to boys with non-immigrant background.
The second paper describes differences among immigrants and non-immigrants with respect to child-reported parental achievement values (i.e., how strongly parents emphasize the child’s achievement), parental comparison (i.e., parents’ explicit comparison of their child’s achievement with that of others), and emotional problems. Findings suggest that the relationship between parental achievement values and emotional problems was partly mediated through comparison, across immigrant and non-immigrant background. Only among preadolescents with immigrant background, comparison was linked to emotional problems. The third paper presents latent classes of emotional problems in preadolescents, and identifies three mutually distinct subgroups: Healthy, Borderline and Distressed. Findings suggest that the odds of belonging to the Distressed-subgroup, rather than the Healthy-subgroup, were at least twice as high for preadolescents with immigrant background, compared to those with non-immigrant background.
Overall, the findings indicate that both parental achievement values and comparison may be risk factors for emotional problems in preadolescents with immigrant background regardless of gender, while school hassles may be related to increased emotional problems in boys with immigrant background. Furthermore, results indicate that already during preadolescence, immigrants and children of immigrants in Norway may be at higher risk for developing emotional problems. In sum, this thesis is a contribution to the research on the emotional health of specific immigrant groups in Norway, and an important addition to the research on Pakistani, Turkish and Sri Lankan mental health in Norway.
List of papers. Paper II is removed from the thesis due to publisher restrictions.
Paper I: Alves, D. E., Røysamb, E., Oppedal, B., & Zachrisson, H. D. (2011). Emotional problems in preadolescents in Norway: The role of gender, ethnic minority status, and home- and schoolrelated hassles. Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health, 5:37.
© 2011 Alves et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License
Paper II: Alves, D. E., Gustavson, K., Røysamb, E., Oppedal, B., Zachrisson, H.D. (2013). Parental achievement values, comparison, and emotional problems in preadolescents with immigrant and non-immigrant background in Norway. Submitted to Scandinavian Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychology.
Paper III: Alves, D. E., Corliss, H. L., Røysamb, E., Zachrisson, H.D., Oppedal, B., Gustavson, K. (2013). Risk of emotional distress is higher in preadolescents with immigrant compared to non-immigrant background. Submitted version, published in: Scandinavian Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychology Vol. 2(1):41-51 (2014). http://www.sjcapp.org/index Copyright 2014 The authors. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License.
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