Background Over the last decades, due to high rates of immigration, many high-income countries have witnessed demographic shifts towards more cultural diversity in the population. Socio-economic deprivation and traumatic experiences pre-migration contribute to a high risk for mental health problems among immigrant background youth. Moreover, when adapting to the multi-cultural contexts of the resettlement countries they face several acculturation demands, which may also affect their mental health in adaptive or hazardous ways. One of these acculturation tasks involves developing the cultural competence necessary to thrive and participate socially within the heritage and the majority cultural domains. From a public mental health perspective, it is important to have thorough knowledge about acculturation-related risk and protective factors. However, this responsibility has been challenged by a lack of acculturation measures that are theoretically linked to mental health, and target the cultural competencies of immigrant background youth. Therefore, the current study aimed at examining if a construct of peer-related culture competence, operationalized in the Youth Culture Competence Scale (YCCS), captured the same competence-phenomenon across different language, age, and immigrant groups in two immigrant-receiving countries. The scale includes two dimensions: one of heritage, and one of majority peer-related culture competence. Methods Self-report questionnaire data were collected from 895 unaccompanied refugees and 591 immigrant background high school students in Norway, and from 321 immigrant university students in the United States. To examine if the measure assessed the same phenomenon of peer-related culture competence across these three multi-ethnic samples with an age range from 13 to 28, we examined its measurement equivalence. Additionally, we examined if the association between peer-related culture competence and depressive symptoms was similar in these groups. Results Confirmatory factor analyses supported the proposed two factor structure of the YCCS across the three samples. The structural equation model assessing the effects of heritage and majority culture competence on depressive symptoms confirmed that each culture competence dimension had a unique association with depressive symptoms across the samples. Conclusions We conclude that the YCCS is a robust acculturation measure that may be included in public health studies of mental health among multi-ethnic refugee and immigrant samples of varied ages.
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