How to Explain the Link between Immigration and Adolescent Mental Health? SES, perceived discrimination, parental and peer support as mediators in the association between immigration and adolescent internalizing and externalizing problems
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Contrasting other European studies, Dutch research has consistently shown that Dutch immigrant adolescents report more externalizing problems than their non-immigrants peers, while they show equally high amounts of internalizing problems. This cross-sectional study advances our understanding of mechanisms explaining the link between immigration and Dutch adolescent mental health, by investigating to what extend SES, perceived discrimination, and social support mediate this association. Data of the Dutch HBSC study (2017) were used, with a sample of 8,190 adolescents (Mage = 13.38, SD = 1.63). Linear Regression analyses revealed that, when compared to their non-immigrant peers, immigrant adolescents reported more externalizing problems, equally high amounts of internalizing problems, remarkably higher levels of perceived discrimination, lower SES and less social support. Perceived discrimination had a stronger positive contribution to externalizing than to internalizing problems. Family affluence and peer support were negatively related to internalizing problems, while education level was negatively associated with externalizing problems. Comparably strong negative associations of parental support with both types of mental health problems were found. These findings stress the need for interventions targeting immigrant adolescents’ perceived discrimination, to reduce their relatively high amounts of externalizing problems. Upcoming research should investigate which predictors explain perceived discrimination.