Social and emotional problems among immigrants in Norway

Hildegunn Fandrem’s PhD-project deals with social and emotional problems among immigrant adolescents living in Norway.

The project consists of three papers and a summary. In the following a presentation of the main objects of each paper separately.

First paper
The first paper has the title: Depressive Symptoms among Native Norwegian and Immigrant Adolescents in Norway: The Role of Gender and Urbanization. This paper is built on data which is part of a larger cross sectional representative study of pupils’ social and emotional problems and peer and teacher relations in Norwegian primary and secondary schools. For the analyses in my paper we used 6 items measuring depressive symptoms, in the larger cross sectional study these items were integrated in a health scale in a self-report questionnaire.

The sample used for the first paper constitutes 3431 adolescents in secondary school, approximately 13-15 years old. It comprises both native Norwegian and immigrant adolescents living in Norway; 2938 were native Norwegians (1521 girls, 1417 boys) and 189 were immigrant adolescents (97 girls, 92 boys).

The main objective of the study was to examine the role of the socio-demographic factors (e.g., immigration status, gender and urbanization) on depressive symptoms among adolescents in Norway. We were particularly interested in depressive symptoms among immigrants relative to their national peers (e.g., native Norwegians). The paper examines the following hypotheses:

  1. Immigrant adolescents in Norway will report more depressive symptoms than their native Norwegian peers.
  2. Girls will be on a higher level of depressive symptoms than boys
  3. Gender differences will increase when immigrant status is taken into account.

As previous research on urbanization does not show a clear relationship with depression, we did not formulate a hypothesis for this variable. However, we examined the relationship between increasing urbanization and depressive symptoms among native Norwegians and immigrants.

The main finding of the study was that the level of depressive symptoms was higher among the immigrant adolescents than their Norwegian counterparts, but the result was significant only for the boys. Concerning gender differences generally depressive symptoms were significantly higher among girls than among boys. According to urbanization the results showed that in cities there were significant difference between native Norwegian and immigrant boys, with the immigrant boys being at a higher level of depressive symptoms compared to the native Norwegians.
Implications for future research about immigrant adolescents and their psychosocial adjustment are discussed in the end of this paper.

Second paper
The title of the second paper is: Bullying and Victimization among Norwegian and Immigrant Adolescents in Norway: The Role of Proactive and Reactive Aggressiveness.
For this paper the same sample was used as for the first one. Data was also taken from the same questionnaire as for the first paper, but now five scales were used: Bullying others, victimization, proactive power-related aggressiveness, proactive affiliation-related aggressiveness and reactive aggressiveness.
The study compares levels of bullying others, victimization and aggressiveness in native Norwegian and immigrant adolescents living in Norway and shows how bullying is related to proactive and reactive aggressiveness. Structural equation models were conducted separately for girls and boys in both groups.

The levels of victimization, reactive and proactive aggressiveness were found to be the same for both native Norwegians and immigrant adolescents but there was a significant difference in the levels of bullying others. Compared with the native Norwegian, immigrant adolescents were found to be at higher risk of bullying others. Structural models revealed significantly stronger relations between affiliation-related proactive aggressiveness and bullying others in immigrant boys compared with the other groups. This indicates that the wish for affiliation is an important mechanism of bullying others in immigrant boys.

In the end of the article we also suggest further research and discuss the practical importance of the findings for prevention targeting immigrant adolescents.

Third paper
The third paper is titled: Bullying and the wish for Affiliation – A study of Peer Group in Native Norwegian and Immigrants in Norway, and its main focus is built on the results from the second paper. For this paper a new investigation was conducted, a Norwegian secondary school was used. The sample consists of 157 adolescents, both native Norwegian and immigrants, in grade eight, nine and ten. The immigrants are the minority-group at the school, as they constitute about 40 percent of the pupils while the remaining pupils, about 60 percent, are native Norwegian.

The study examines peer groups and to what extent native Norwegian and immigrant girls and boys bully together with their peers. It was of special interest to find out with whom the immigrant boys affiliate with. To identify bullies four measurement methods (two self-assessments and two peer-nominations) were applied. Social cognitive mapping (SCM) was used to identify peer groups in classes. The peer groups were then classified according to number of bullies and number of non-bullies in the different groups.

More immigrant boys than expected by chance were found to be bullies. It was of special interest to find out with whom the immigrant boys affiliate with. First order configural frequency analyses (CFAs) and two samples CFAs showed that immigrant boys were overrepresented in peer groups which were characterized as bullying groups, and immigrant girls were overrepresented in peer groups with no bullying. In addition, first order CFA and two sample CFAs showed that immigrant boys were more often identified as bullies than as non bullies according to two measurement methods (both self and peer). Immigrant boys who bully preferably affiliate with other bullies who are both immigrant and native adolescents. We relate these results to acculturation strategies because choosing both native Norwegians and immigrants as co-bullies may be interpreted as integration strategy. Thus for immigrant boys, bullying others may be a way to integrate in the Norwegian society. Implications concerning teachers’ work in schools in Norway are also discussed.

I think that the three papers altogether show very interesting results concerning immigrant boys. Also qualitative studies should be conducted to shed further light on these important questions raised by these three papers.

Hildegunn Fandrem



Hildegunn Fandrem

Hildegunn Fandrem