Internalizing disorders in migrant and non-migrant children and adolescents: Analyses of a German health care population.

Author(s): Esmahan BELHADJ KOUIDER ; Alfred L. LORENZ ; Marc DUPONT ; Franz PETERMANN



Compared to externalizing problem behavior, European and American research has indicated the danger of developing internalizing symptoms, especially in migrant children and adolescents. However, further specific risk factors in relation to internalizing disorders, for example gender aspects, were often found.

Subjects and methods

The present study investigates a child and adolescent psychiatric health care population (N = 6,269) from 2005 to 2011 in Germany. Around 50 % were diagnosed with internalizing disorders (N = 3,706). Logistic regressions indicated whether migration background, such as ethnicities, or contextual factors could predict internalizing disorders.


Ethnicity or migration background had only a minor influence on internalizing disorders, with the exception of those of Asian origin. Generally, the influence of other environments was much stronger than migrant’s characteristics such as gender, living in a single-parent family setting, medium educational background of parents, average or above average intelligence level of children, psychopathological problems of family members, abnormal parenting practice or acute burden living conditions. Interactions between migration background and risk factors were only visible in abnormal parenting practice or abnormal environments.


Possibly, migrant children are currently not sufficiently supplied with psychiatric health services. Cross-cultural as well as familial aspects should increasingly be considered in psychiatric work with children showing internalizing symptoms.

Tags: Internalizing disorders, Migrants, Children and adolescents, Psychiatric health care, Risk factors


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