Emotional and behavioural problems and competencies among immigrant and non-immigrant adolescents

Lisa C. Davies, Robert S. McKelvey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Objective: The aim of this study was to compare levels of emotional and behavioural problems and competencies among immigrant and non-immigrant adolescents, and to determine factors that may contribute to any differences reported. Method: Subjects were selected randomly from students aged 12-16 years attending a high school with a high proportion of immigrants in Perth, Western Australia. Parents completed the Child Behaviour Checklist (CBCL), and students completed the Youth Self-Report (YSR) and a Personal History Questionnaire. Results: On univariate analyses, non-immigrant adolescents had significantly higher CBCL and YSR scores than immigrant adolescents. Multivariate analyses suggested that CBCL scores were predicted by a number of variables other than immigration, including family intactness, socioeconomic status (SES) and gender. Higher YSR scores were predicted by non-intact families, school setting and non-immigrant status, and higher competencies scores were predicted by higher SES and parents not being immigrants. Conclusions: In assessing the effects of immigration on adolescent mental health, it is important to control for factors associated with adolescent behavioural and emotional problems and to use multiple informants. Overall, immigrant adolescents report fewer total and externalising problems and fewer competencies than native-born adolescents. This finding may reflect strict immigration policies or cultural differences in definitions of psychopathology and the social expectations for adolescents' behaviour.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)658-665
Number of pages8
JournalAustralian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Adolescence
  • Emotional and behavioural problems
  • Immigration
  • Mental health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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