European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

, Volume 22, Issue 7, pp 413–421 | Cite as

Understanding ethnic differences in mental health service use for adolescents’ internalizing problems: the role of emotional problem identification

  • Esmée E. Verhulp
  • Gonneke W. J. M. Stevens
  • Rens van de Schoot
  • Wilma A. M. Vollebergh
Original Contribution


Although immigrant adolescents are at least at equal risk of developing internalizing problems as their non-immigrant peers, immigrant adolescents are less likely to use mental health care. The present study is the first to examine ethnic differences in problem identification to find explanations for this disparity in mental health service use. Specifically, the extent to which emotional problem identification mediates the relationship between immigrant status and mental health service use for internalizing problems in three immigrant populations in the Netherlands (i.e., Surinamese, Turkish, and Moroccan) was investigated. A two-phase design was used to include adolescents at risk for internalizing problems. Data were used from the second phase, in which 349 parents and adolescents participated (95 native Dutch, 85 Surinamese, 87 Turkish, and 82 Moroccan). Results indicated that mental health service use for internalizing problems is far lower among immigrant adolescents than among native Dutch adolescents, although differences between immigrant groups were also substantive. A lack of emotional problem identification was identified as an essential mediator in the relationship between immigrant status and mental health service use. Since the results suggest the low levels of problem identification in our immigrant samples may serve an explanatory role in the relationship between immigrant status and mental health service use, future research should aim at understanding these ethnic differences in problem identification.


Mental health service use Immigrants Adolescents Emotional problem identification Internalizing problems 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Esmée E. Verhulp
    • 1
  • Gonneke W. J. M. Stevens
    • 1
  • Rens van de Schoot
    • 2
    • 3
  • Wilma A. M. Vollebergh
    • 1
  1. 1.Utrecht University, Utrecht Centre of Child and Adolescent StudiesUtrechtThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of Methods and StatisticsUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands
  3. 3.North-West University, Optentia Research Program, Faculty of HumanitiesVanderbijlparkSouth Africa

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