Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Public Health and BioMed Central.

Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

School difficulties in immigrant adolescent students and roles of socioeconomic factors, unhealthy behaviours, and physical and mental health

Kénora Chau12, Michèle Baumann2, Bernard Kabuth1 and Nearkasen Chau345*

Author Affiliations

1 Service of Pedopsychiatry, Hôpital d'Enfants de Nancy-Brabois, Université de Lorraine, Faculté de médecine, Vandoeuvre-lès-Nancy, France

2 University of Luxembourg, INtegrative research unit on Social and Individual DEvelopment (INSIDE), Walferdange, Luxembourg

3 INSERM, U669, Paris, F-75014, France

4 Univ Paris-Sud and Univ Paris Descartes, UMR-S0669, Paris, France

5 Inserm, U669, 8 rue du Breuil, F-54180, Heillecourt, France

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Public Health 2012, 12:453  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-453

Published: 19 June 2012

Abstract

Background

School is a multi-cultural setting where students need social, material, physical, and mental resources to attain school achievement. But they are often lacking, especially for immigrant students. In an early adolescence context, this study assessed risk for school difficulties among European and non-European immigrants and the roles of socioeconomic characteristics, physical health, psychological health, social relationships, living environment, and unhealthy behaviours.

Methods

This cross-sectional study included 1,559 middle-school adolescents from north-eastern France, who completed a self-administered questionnaire including socioeconomic characteristics (gender, age, family structure, father’s occupation, and family income), WHO-Quality of life (measuring the four dimensions physical health, psychological health, social relationships, and living environment), unhealthy behaviours (last-30-day uses of tobacco, alcohol, cannabis, and other illicit drugs and no regular sports/physical activities), grade repetition, low school performance (<10/20), and school dropout ideation at 16 years. Data were analyzed using logistic models.

Results

Grade repetition affected 14.8% of students, low school performance 8.2%, and school dropout ideation 3.9%. European immigrants had a higher risk for grade repetition only with a gender-age-adjusted odds ratio (OR) of 2.44, vs. French students. This odds ratio decreased to 1.76 (contribution 47%) with further adjustment for all confounders (family structure, father’s occupation, family income, physical health, psychological health, social relationships, living environment, and unhealthy behaviours). Non-European immigrants had a statistically higher risk for all grade repetition, low school performance, and school dropout ideation with ORs of 3.29, 3.02, and 3.42, respectively vs. French students. These odds ratios decreased to 1.76, 1.54, and 1.54, respectively (contributions 66%, 73%, and 78%) with further adjustment for all confounders.

Conclusions

Compared with French students, European immigrant students were more affected only by grade repetition while non-European immigrant students by all grade repetition, low school performance, and school dropout ideation. The contribution of socioeconomic characteristics, physical health, psychological health, social relationships, living environment, and unhealthy behaviours was very high and much higher for non-European than for European immigrant students. Public policy should focus on these factors and services to reduce school difficulties.

Keywords:
School difficulties; European immigrants; Non-European immigrants; Family characteristics; Socioeconomic status; Quality of life; Health-related behaviours