Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 45, Issue 1, pp 1–16 | Cite as

The Relationship Between Immigrant School Composition, Classmate Support and Involvement in Physical Fighting and Bullying among Adolescent Immigrants and Non-immigrants in 11 Countries

  • Sophie D. Walsh
  • Bart De Clercq
  • Michal Molcho
  • Yossi Harel-Fisch
  • Colleen M. Davison
  • Katrine Rich Madsen
  • Gonneke W. J. M. Stevens
Empirical Research


Increasing numbers of migrant youth around the world mean growing numbers of heterogeneous school environments in many countries. Contradictory findings regarding the relationship between immigrant school composition (the percentage of immigrant versus non-immigrant students in a school) and adolescent peer violence necessitate further consideration. The current study examined the relationship between immigrant school composition and peer violence, considering classmate support as a potential moderator among 51,636 adolescents (50.1 % female) from 11 countries. The findings showed that a higher percentage of immigrant adolescents in a school was related to higher levels of physical fighting and bullying perpetration for both immigrant and non-immigrant adolescents and lower levels of victimization for immigrants. In environments of low classmate support, the positive relationship between immigrant school composition and fighting was stronger for non-immigrants than in environments with high classmate support. In environments of low classmate support, the negative relationship between immigrant school composition and fighting and bullying victimization was stronger for immigrant adolescents than in environments with high classmate support. In general, the contribution of immigrant school composition was modest in comparison to the contribution of classmate support. The findings emphasize that it is not just the number of immigrants in a class per se, but rather the environment in the classroom which influences levels of peer violence. The results highlight a need for school intervention programs encouraging positive relations in schools with immigrant populations.


Immigration Adolescent Immigrant school composition Bullying Fighting Classmate support 



The HBSC (Health Behaviour in School-aged Children) is a World Health Organization/Euro collaborative study; International Coordinator of the 2009–2010 study was Candace Currie, St. Andrews University, Scotland; Data Bank Manager is Oddrun Samdal, University of Bergen, Norway. The 11 countries involved in this analysis (current responsible principal investigator) were Denmark (M.Rasmussen) Germany (M.Richter), Greece (A. Kokkevi), Iceland(A.Arnarsson) Ireland (S. Nic Gabhainn), Israel (Y. Harel-Fisch), Italy (F. Cavallo), Netherlands (W. Vollebergh), Spain (C. Moreno), the United Kingdom (England, A. Morgan & F. Brooks; Scotland, C. Currie; Wales, C. Roberts), and the United States (R. Iannotti).

Authors Contributions

SDW & GWJMS conceived of the study, led its design and coordination and drafted the manuscript; BDC participated in the design of the study and performed the statistical analysis; MM, YH-F & KRM participated in the design and interpretation of the data and helped to draft the manuscript; CD participated in the interpretation of the data and helped to draft the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Conflicts of interest

The authors report no conflict of interests.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sophie D. Walsh
    • 1
  • Bart De Clercq
    • 2
  • Michal Molcho
    • 3
  • Yossi Harel-Fisch
    • 4
  • Colleen M. Davison
    • 5
  • Katrine Rich Madsen
    • 6
  • Gonneke W. J. M. Stevens
    • 7
  1. 1.Department of CriminologyBar-Ilan UniversityRamat GanIsrael
  2. 2.Department of Public HealthGhent UniversityGhentBelgium
  3. 3.Health Promotion Research CentreNUI GalwayGalwayIreland
  4. 4.The International Research Program on Adolescent Well-Being and Health, School of EducationBar-Ilan UniversityRamat GanIsrael
  5. 5.Department of Public Health SciencesQueen’s UniversityKingstonCanada
  6. 6.National Institute of Public HealthUniversity of Southern DenmarkCopenhagenDenmark
  7. 7.Utrecht Centre for Child and Adolescent StudiesUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands

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