Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 47, Issue 1, pp 16–37 | Cite as

Is Integration Always most Adaptive? The Role of Cultural Identity in Academic Achievement and in Psychological Adaptation of Immigrant Students in Germany

  • Kristin Schotte
  • Petra Stanat
  • Aileen Edele
Empirical Research


Immigrant adaptation research views identification with the mainstream context as particularly beneficial for sociocultural adaptation, including academic achievement, and identification with the ethnic context as particularly beneficial for psychological adaptation. A strong identification with both contexts is considered most beneficial for both outcomes (integration hypothesis). However, it is unclear whether the integration hypothesis applies in assimilative contexts, across different outcomes, and across different immigrant groups. This study investigates the association of cultural identity with several indicators of academic achievement and psychological adaptation in immigrant adolescents (N = 3894, 51% female, M age= 16.24, SD age = 0.71) in Germany. Analyses support the integration hypothesis for aspects of psychological adaptation but not for academic achievement. Moreover, for some outcomes, findings vary across immigrant groups from Turkey (n = 809), the former Soviet Union (n = 712), and heterogeneous other countries (n = 2373). The results indicate that the adaptive potential of identity integration is limited in assimilative contexts, such as Germany, and that it may vary across different outcomes and groups. As each identification is positively associated with at least one outcome, however, both identification dimensions seem to be important for the adaptation of immigrant adolescents.


Cultural identity Acculturation Migration Academic achievement Psychological adaptation 



This article uses data from the National Educational Panel Study (NEPS): Starting Cohort 4—9th Grade, doi:10.5157/NEPS:SC4:4.0.0. From 2008 to 2013, NEPS data were collected as part of the Framework Programme for the Promotion of Empirical Educational Research funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). As of 2014, the NEPS survey is carried out by the Leibniz Institute for Educational Trajectories (LIfBi) at the University of Bamberg in cooperation with a nationwide network. We would like to thank Melissa R. Herman for writing assistance and Birgit Heppt as well as Tim Müller for statistical advice.

Authors' Contributions

K.S. further developed the conception and design of the study, drafted the manuscript, and performed the statistical analysis; P.S. participated in the design and coordination of the study and helped to draft the manuscript; A.E. primarily conceived of the study, participated in its design and in the interpretation of the data, developed key instruments and helped to draft the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.


This research was conducted at the Berlin Institute for Integration and Migration Research (BIM) and was supported by a grant from the Hertie Foundation [grant number P1160009] and the German Football Association, DFB (Kristin Schotte). It was also supported by the Grant STA 626/8-2 from the German Research Foundation (DFG) conducted within Priority Programme 1646, “Education as a Lifelong Process” (Aileen Edele).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Berlin Institute for Integration and Migration Research (BIM) at Humboldt-Universität zu BerlinBerlinGermany
  2. 2.Institute for Educational Quality Improvement (IQB)Berlin Institute for Integration and Migration Research (BIM) at Humboldt-Universität zu BerlinBerlinGermany
  3. 3.Humboldt-Universität zu BerlinBerlinGermany

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