Analysing the Relationship Between Immigrant Status and the Severity of Offending Behaviour in Terms of Individual and Contextual Factors

Front Psychol. 2022 Jun 15:13:915233. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2022.915233. eCollection 2022.


Background: Social inclusion is a context for both risk and protective factors of migrant youth delinquency. This study aims to shed light on the issue by comparing delinquency amongst native, first-generation, and second-generation immigrant youths in Portugal, a country located in the south of Europe, an area where research in this field is still scarce.

Methods: The research is based on the International Self-Reported Delinquency (ISRD-3) dataset, which includes information on over 4,000 adolescents, who self-reported on their socio-demographic status, leisure activities, school and neighbourhood environment, family bonds, and self-control.

Results: Nested Logistic Regression analyses showed that a young first-generation immigrant is twice as likely to commit a crime, with or without violence, as a young native born in Portugal. However, no differences were found regarding the prevalence of delinquency amongst second-generation immigrants and natives, which is likely due to the integration and cultural assimilation of the immigrant over time. Regarding the analysed risk factors, it was found that both structural and individual factors, identified by the theories of control, stress, as well as situational action theory, have a direct effect on the commission of juvenile crimes (both non-violent and violent). Moreover, this effect is significant in adolescents living in Portugal in general, both immigrants and natives. The most influential variable for both types of delinquent behaviour, with and without violence, is peer delinquency, followed by low morality and self-control.

Conclusion: These findings have relevant policy implications and are useful for evidence-based interventions aimed at promoting migrant adolescent well-being and targeting host countries' performance.

Keywords: Portugal; integration policies; migrant origin; self-reported data; youth offending.