New immigrant youth in the United States commit significantly fewer acts of violence against their peers than people born here, but rapidly adopt US social norms that perpetuate aggressive behavior.
Joanna Almeida, associate research scientist at Northeastern’s Institute on Urban Health Research, analyzed data from the 2008 Boston Youth Survey, which was completed by more than 1,300 students in Boston public high schools in an effort to learn more about patterns of violence among Boston youth.
She found that patterns of violence perpetration did not differ by race or ethnicity among the recently immigrant youth. Nor did the recent immigrants use drugs or perform as badly in school as often as US students. But they were just as ready to be emotionally and verbally aggressive, and to spread lies or rumors about a peer.
Most significantly, US born youth with a foreign born parent and immigrants who have lived in the United States for more than four years were roughly twice as likely to commit acts of aggression against their peers, including hitting, punching, and kicking, as those who have lived in the United States for fewer than four years. Almeida disingenuously said:
It’s possible that there’s something about the social environment in this country that’s contributing to foreign born youth becoming violent so quickly. Perhaps it’s a way to cope with being bullied or discriminated against, a consequence of crime and violence in their new communities.