Immigrant adolescent well-being and peer violence

S. Walsh, GWJM. Stevens

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Introduction: Increasing numbers of immigrant youth around the world mean growing numbers of heterogeneous school environments. Contradictory findings regarding the relationship between immigrant school composition (percentage of immigrants in school) and physical fighting and bullying necessitate examination of possible contextual variables. Purpose: The current study examined the relationship between immigrant school composition and peer violence (physical fighting, bullying perpetration and victimization) with classmate support as a potential moderator. The research questions were: 1) To what extent does immigrant school composition impact on levels of bullying and fighting among immigrant and nonimmigrant adolescents; 2) To what extent does classmate support moderate that relationship.
Materials and Methods: The study involved survey data from among 51,636 adolescents (50.1% female) from 11 countries using the 2009/10 Health Behaviors of School Aged Children (HBSC-WHO) study. Individual level variables included immigrant status (non-immigrant, first and second generation immigrant), classmate support, gender, age, family affluence, physical fighting, bullying perpetration and bullying victimization. School level variables included immigrant school composition and classmate support, both aggregate variables from the individual level variables immigrant status and classmate support of all participating adolescents in the school.
Results: Using multilevel modelling, findings showed that higher numbers of immigrant adolescents in a school were related to higher levels of physical fighting and bullying perpetration for both immigrant and nonimmigrant adolescents and to lower levels of bullying victimization for immigrant adolescents. However the contribution of immigrant school composition was very modest in comparison to the effect of classmate support (both directly and as a moderator of the immigrant school composition and violence relationship). Greater classmate support was related to lower levels of all violence outcomes. In schools with high levels of classmate support there was no significant relationship between immigrant school composition and peer violence and, in general, levels of peer violence were low. In schools with low levels of classmate support immigrant school composition was positively related to greater fighting for nonimmigrant adolescents yet to lower levels of bullying victimization for immigrant adolescents. Findings were comparable across countries.
Conclusions: Results highlight the complexity of ethnically diverse classrooms in the current multicultural reality. They pinpoint the need for school intervention programs addressing relations in schools with immigrant populations that can stress positive intergroup relations and encourage classmate support. Findings emphasize that it is not the number of immigrants in a class per se but rather the environment in the classroom which influences levels of peer violence.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages1
StatePublished - 2015
EventExcellence in pediatrics -
Duration: 1 Dec 20152 Dec 2015


ConferenceExcellence in pediatrics


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