Wednesday, August 26, 2015

School Climate and Structure Crucial To Minimizing Immigrants' Anti-social Behavior

The aim of this research is to extend previous school- based studies by examining whether and to what extent school context is differentially predictive of violent delinquency for immigrant and nonimmigrant youth.

The demographic landscape of the United States has undergone dramatic changes in the wake of the ‘‘new’’ immigration. In the last 20 years alone, the immigrant population has doubled from just under 20 million in 1990 to nearly 40 million (roughly 13% of the total population) in 2010 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010). This tremendous growth is perhaps most evident in the number of children in immigrant families. Today, nearly 3 million children living in the United States are foreign-born and as many as one in four children has at least one immigrant parent (O’Hare, 2011). Contrasting the wave of European migration at the turn of the 20th century, today’s immigrants come predominately from Latin America, the Caribbean, and Southeast Asia (Fortuny & Chaudry, 2011). 

This demographic shift has prompted a renewed interest among scholars and policy makers alike in the risk and protective factors associated with crime among immigrants. The preponderance of research suggests that, contrary to the politically fueled rhetoric admonishing immigrants as a ‘‘dangerous class,’’ they exhibit lower rates of crime and violence than native-born Americans (Hagan, Levi, & Dinovitzer, 2008; Rumbaut & Ewing, 2007; Sampson, 2008). 

Recent studies of school effects affirm theoretical expectations that both school social climate (e.g., culture and communal organization) and the structural characteristics (e.g., size and stu dent–teacher ratio) of the school matter for predicting youth misbehavior. For instance, research shows that schools that are more communally organized—as evinced by the degree of supportive relationships among teachers, staff, and students, shared goals and norms, and a general sense of collaboration and commitment—have lower rates of delinquency and misbehavior, as well as higher levels of academic achievement (Battistich & Hom, 1997; Bryk & Driscoll, 1988; Kirk, 2009; Payne, 2008; Payne et al., 2003). 

Compared with American-born youth, the social milieu of the school may take on heightened significance for immigrant youth for at least two key reasons. First, as DiPietro and McGloin (2012, pp. 718–719) recently argued, ‘‘the experience of being a foreigner/outsider can amplify the typical adolescent drive to establish a social identity that, at least initially, is rooted in peer compa- nions.’’ While adolescence marks a tumultuous time for most youth, when ‘‘being different or ‘standing out’ takes on crucial social significance, acceptance into peer networks and school culture may be especially important for immigrant adolescents who may already differ in their appearance, dress, or speech’’ (King & Harris, 2007, p. 347). 

Compared with American-born youth, immigrant youth face unique obstacles that may be exacerbated in the school setting. For example, many immigrant youth face the daunting task of mastering English while concurrently adapting to the new social environment of the school; language deficits, in turn, may result in ‘‘discrimination, ridicule, and harassment from other students, teachers, and school administrators’’ (Peguero, 2008, p. 398). Indeed, research has found that immigrant youth across diverse racial and ethnic groups are likely to report feelings of discrimination, marginalization, and social isolation (Portes & Rumbaut, 2001) as well as a heightened sense of fear at school (Peguero, 2008).

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