Immigration, citizenship, and the mental health of adolescents

Nicole Filion, Andrew Fenelon, Michel Boudreaux

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Purpose To examine the reported mental health outcomes of adolescent foreign-born non-citizens and adolescent foreign-born U.S. citizens compared to adolescent U.S.-born citizens. Methods Using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire in the National Health Interview Survey, we compared mental health status of U.S.-born adolescent citizens to foreign-born citizens and non-citizens in the years 2010–2015, and examined how differences in emotional difficulty changed based on time spent in the U.S. Results Results suggest that non-citizen adolescents experience better mental health outcomes than U.S.-born citizens. However, the mental health status of foreign-born citizens is indistinguishable from that of the U.S.-born, after accounting for basic socio-demographic characteristics. The prevalence of emotional difficulty experienced by immigrant adolescents increased with a family’s duration in the U.S. Conclusion Our findings are consistent with a broader health advantage for the foreign-born, but we present new evidence that the mental health advantage of foreign-born adolescents exists only for non-citizens.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0196859
JournalPloS one
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General


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