A comparison of levels and predictors of emotional problems among preadolescent Ethiopians in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and Toronto, Canada

Transcult Psychiatry. 2012 Nov;49(5):651-77. doi: 10.1177/1363461512457155. Epub 2012 Sep 25.


According to a literature of theory and advocacy, immigration and resettlement jeopardize the mental health of children and youth, largely because of factors such as intergenerational tensions arising from conflicts about the retention of traditional values, and experiences of prejudice and discrimination. The current study examines the specificity of these putative mental health risks to the immigration experience. The level and predictors of emotional problems among preadolescent Ethiopians living in immigrant families in Toronto, Canada, were compared with a matched sample of Ethiopian youngsters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Data came from structured interviews with the person most knowledgeable about the family (usually a parent), as well as from the children themselves. Youth reported higher levels of emotional problems (EP) than their parents. Predictors differed for parent and child ratings. In both the Toronto and Addis Ababa samples, parental mental health predicted parent-rated, but not self-rated EP. Contrary to immigration stress theory, parental perceptions of prejudice predicted EP in Addis Ababa, but not Toronto, and parent-child discordance regarding ethnic adherence were predictors of self-rated emotional problems in Ethiopia, but not in Canada. Perceived discrimination was a significant predictor of self-rated emotional problems in both settings. Implications for theory and further research are discussed.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acculturation
  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Development / physiology*
  • Adult
  • Canada / ethnology
  • Child
  • Emigrants and Immigrants / psychology*
  • Ethiopia / ethnology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health / ethnology*
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Prejudice / ethnology
  • Social Discrimination / ethnology
  • Social Perception