Recent decades have witnessed a rise in the number of immigrant children in the United States (US) and concomitant concerns regarding externalizing behaviors such as crime, violence, and drug misuse by immigrant adolescents. The objective of the present study was to systematically compare the prevalence of externalizing behaviors and migration-related factors among immigrant and US-born adolescents in the US.
Data on 12 to 17 year olds (Weighted N in thousands = 25,057) from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) R-DAS between 2002 and 2009 were used. The R-DAS online analytic software was employed. Prevalence estimates and 95 % confidence intervals were calculated adjusting for the complex survey sampling design.
Compared to their US-born counterparts, immigrant adolescents—particularly those between the ages of 15 and 17 years—are significantly less likely to be involved in externalizing behaviors. In addition, later age of arrival and fewer years spent in the US were associated with reduced odds of externalizing behavior. Supplementary analyses indicate that the link between nativity and externalizing behavior may be primarily driven by differences between US-born and immigrant youth who self-identify as non-Hispanic black or Hispanic. Immigrant adolescents are also more likely to report cohesive parental relationships, positive school engagement, and disapproving views with respect to adolescent substance use.
This study extends prior research on the “immigrant paradox” to externalizing behavior among adolescents using a nationally representative data source. Findings highlight the importance of examining age, age of arrival, duration, and race/ethnicity in the study of nativity and externalizing.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Grieco EM The “Second Great Wave” of immigration: Growth of the foreign-born population since 1970. http://blogs.census.gov/2014/02/26/the-second-great-wave-of-immigration-growth-of-the-foreign-born-population-since-1970/. Accessed 11 March 2015
United States Census Bureau (2015) The foreign-born population in the United States. https://www.census.gov/newsroom/pdf/cspan_fb_slides.pdf. Accessed 11 March 2015
US Census Bureau (2013) How do we know? America’s foreign born in the last 50 years. http://www.census.gov/library/infographics/foreign_born.html
Hernandez DJ, Denton NA, Macartney SE Children in immigrant families: looking to America’s future. In: Social policy report, vol 22, No 3. Society for Research in Child Development
Daniels R (2004) Guarding the golden door: American immigration policy and immigrants since 1882. Hill and Wang, New York
Chavez L (2013) The Latino threat: constructing immigrants, citizens, and the nation. Stanford University Press, Stanford
Wang X (2012) Undocumented immigrants as perceived criminal threat: a test of the minority threat perspective. Criminology 50(3):743–776
Bersani BE, Loughran TA, Piquero AR (2014) Comparing patterns and predictors of immigrant offending among a sample of adjudicated youth. J Youth Adolesc 43:1914–1933
Vaughn MG, Salas-Wright CP, DeLisi M, Maynard BR (2014) The immigrant paradox: immigrants are less antisocial than native-born Americans. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 49(7):1129–1137
Vaughn MG, Salas-Wright CP, Cooper-Sadlo S, Maynard BR, Larson MJ (2015) Are immigrants more likely than native-born Americans to perpetrate intimate partner violence? J Interpers Violence 30(11):1888–1904
Vaughn MG, Salas-Wright CP, Qian Z, Wang J (2015) Evidence of a “refugee paradox” for antisocial behavior and violence in the United States. J Forensic Psychiatr. doi:10.1080/14789949.2015.1049194 (Advance online publication)
Mancini M, Salas-Wright CP, Vaughn MG (2015) Drug use and service utilization among Hispanics in the United States. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. doi:10.1007/s00127-015-1111-5 (Advance online publication)
Bui HN (2013) Racial and ethnic differences in the immigrant paradox in substance use. J Immigr Minor Health 15(5):866–881
Salas-Wright CP, Clark TT, Vaughn MG, Córdova D (2015) Profiles of acculturation among Hispanics in the United States: links with discrimination and substance use. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 50(1):39–49
Kennedy S, Kidd MP, McDonald JT, Biddle N (2014) The healthy immigrant effect: patterns and evidence from four countries. J Int Migr Integr. doi:10.1007/s12134-014-0340-x (Advance online publication)
Salas-Wright CP, Kagotho N, Vaughn MG (2014) Mood, anxiety, and personality disorders among first and second-generation immigrants to the United States. Psychiat Res 220(3):1028–1036
Salas-Wright CP, Lee S, Vaughn MG, Jang Y, Sangalang CC (2015) Acculturative heterogeneity among Asian/Pacific Islanders in the United States: associations with DSM mental and substance use disorders. Am J Orthopsychiat 85(4):362–370
Vaughn MG, Salas-Wright CP, Huang J, Qian Z, Terzis L, Helton J (2015) Adverse childhood experiences among immigrants to the United States. J Interpers Violence. doi:10.1177/0886260515589568 (Advance online publication)
Almeida J, Johnson RM, Matsumoto A, Godette DC (2012) Substance use, generation and time in the United States: the modifying role of gender for immigrant urban adolescents. Soc Sci Med 75(12):2069–2075
Vaughn MG, Salas-Wright CP, Maynard BR et al (2014) Criminal epidemiology and the immigrant paradox: intergenerational discontinuity in violence and antisocial behavior among immigrants. J Crim Justice 42(6):483–490
García Coll C, Marks AKE (2012) The immigrant paradox in children and adolescents: Is becoming American a developmental risk? American Psychological Association, Washington, D.C.
Buriel R (2012) Historical origins of the immigrant paradox for Mexican American students: the cultural integration hypothesis. In: García Coll C, Marks AKE (eds) The immigrant paradox in children and adolescents: Is becoming American a developmental risk? American Psychological Association, Washington, D.C, pp 37–60
Forster M, Grigsby T, Soto D et al (2014) The role of bicultural stress and perceived context of reception in the expression of aggression and rule breaking behaviors among recent immigrant Hispanic youth. J Interpers Violence. doi:10.1177/0886260514549052 (Advance online publication)
Schwartz SJ, Unger JB, Lorenzo-Blanco EI et al (2014) Perceived context of reception among recent Hispanic immigrants: conceptualization, instrument development, and preliminary validation. Cultur Divers Ethnic Minor Psychol 20(1):1–15
Schwartz SJ, Unger JB, Baezconde-Garbanati L et al (2015) Trajectories of cultural stressors and effects on mental health and substance use among Hispanic immigrant adolescents. J Adolesc Health. doi:doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2014.12.011 (Advance online publication)
Salas-Wright CP, Robles EH, Vaughn MG, Córdova D, Figueroa RP (2015) Toward a typology of acculturative stress: findings from a national sample of Hispanic immigrants. Hispanic J Behav Sci 37(2):223–242
Salas-Wright CP, Vaughn MG, Hodge DR, Perron BE (2012) Religiosity profiles of American youth in relation to substance use, violence, and delinquency. J Youth Adolesc 41(12):1560–1575
Salas-Wright CP, Vaughn MG, Maynard BR (2014) Buffering effects of religiosity on crime: testing the invariance hypothesis across gender and developmental period. Crim Justice Behav 41(6):673–691
Marks AK, Ejesi K, García Coll C (2014) Understanding the US immigrant paradox in childhood and adolescence. Child Dev Perspect 8(2):59–64
Menjívar C, Bejarano C (2004) Latino immigrants’ perceptions of crime and police authorities in the United States: a case study from the Phoenix metropolitan area. Ethnic Racial Stud 27(1):120–148
Gonzales NA, Wong JJ, Toomey RB et al (2014) School engagement mediates long-term prevention effects for Mexican American adolescents. Prev Sci 15(6):929–939
Prado GJ, Schwartz SJ, Maldonado-Molina M et al (2008) Ecodevelopmental × intrapersonal risk: substance use and sexual behavior in Hispanic adolescents. Health Educ Behav 36:45–61
Schwartz SJ, Unger JB, Des Rosiers SE et al (2012) Substance use and sexual behavior among recent Hispanic immigrant adolescents: effects of parent–adolescent differential acculturation and communication. Drug Alcohol Depend 125:S26–S34
Smokowski PR, Rose RA, Bacallao M (2009) Acculturation and aggression in Latino adolescents: modeling longitudinal trajectories from the Latino acculturation and health project. Child Psychiat Hum Dev 40(4):589–608
Suárez-Orozco C, Rhodes J, Milburn M (2009) Unraveling the immigrant paradox academic engagement and disengagement among recently arrived immigrant youth. Youth Soc 41(2):151–185
Unger JB, Ritt-Olson A, Soto DW, Baezconde-Garbanati L (2009) Parent–child acculturation discrepancies as a risk factor for substance use among Hispanic adolescents in Southern California. J Immigr Minor Health 11(3):149–157
(2014a) National Survey on Drug Use and Health: 8-Year R-DAS (2002–2009) Washington, D.C.: United States Department of Health and Human Services. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
(2014b) Results from the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of national findings (2014 Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Breslau J, Borges G, Hagar Y et al (2009) Immigration to the USA and risk for mood and anxiety disorders: variation by origin and age at immigration. Psychol Med 39(07):1117–1127
Salas-Wright CP, Vaughn MG (2014) A “refugee paradox” for substance use disorders? Drug Alcohol Depend 142:345–349
Herman-Stahl MA, Krebs CP, Kroutil LA, Heller DC (2006) Risk and protective factors for nonmedical use of prescription stimulants and methamphetamine among adolescents. J Adolescent Health 39(3):374–380
Vaughn MG, Maynard BR, Salas-Wright CP et al (2013) Prevalence and correlates of truancy in the US: results from a national sample. J Adolesc 36(4):767–776
DeLisi M, Vaughn MG, Salas-Wright CP (2015) Rumble: prevalence and correlates of group fighting among adolescents in the United States. Behav Sci 5(2):214–229
Szumilas M (2010) Explaining odds ratios. J Can Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 19(3):227–229
Cumming G, Finch S (2005) Inference by eye: confidence intervals and how to read pictures of data. Am Psychol 60(2):170–180
Bacio GA, Mays VM, Lau AS (2013) Drinking initiation and problematic drinking among Latino adolescents: explanations of the immigrant paradox. Psychol Addict Behav 27(1):14–22
Prado G, Huang S, Schwartz SJ et al (2004) What accounts for differences in substance use among US-born and immigrant Hispanic adolescents? Results from a longitudinal prospective cohort study. J Adolescent Health 45(2):118–125
Steinberg L (2008) A social neuroscience perspective on adolescent risk-taking. Dev Rev 28(1):78–106
Li K, Wen M (2015) Substance use, age at migration, and length of residence among adult immigrants in the United States. J Immigr Minor Health 17:156–164
Salas-Wright CP, Vaughn MG, Clark TT et al (2014) Substance use disorders among first and second-generation immigrants in the USA: evidence of an immigrant paradox? J Stud Alcohol Drugs 75(6):958–967
Wilson AN, Salas-Wright CP, Vaughn MG, Maynard BR (2015) Gambling prevalence rates among immigrants: a multigenerational examination. Addict Behav 42:79–85
Schwartz SJ, Unger JB, Zamboanga BL, Szapocznik J (2010) Rethinking the concept of acculturation: implications for theory and research. Am Psychologist 65(4):237
Salas-Wright CP, Vaughn MG, Todic J, Cordova D, Perron, BR (2015) Trends in the disapproval and use of marijuana among adolescents and young adults in the United States: 2002–2013. Am J Drug Alcohol Abus. doi:10.3109/00952990.2015.1049493 (Advance online publication)
This research was supported in part by Grant Number R25 DA030310 (PI: Anthony) from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Conflict of interest
On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.
About this article
Cite this article
Salas-Wright, C.P., Vaughn, M.G., Schwartz, S.J. et al. An “immigrant paradox” for adolescent externalizing behavior? Evidence from a national sample. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 51, 27–37 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00127-015-1115-1
- Immigrant paradox
- Substance use