Objective: This study explores the differences in the association between three different types of aggression (reactive aggression, power-related proactive aggression and affiliation-related proactive aggression), with emotional and conduct problems between early adolescents with immigrant and non-immigrant background in Norway.
Methods: The sample comprises 1759 early adolescents in fifth to eight grade (10-15 year-olds). The proportion of early adolescents of immigrants with two foreign-born parents were 862 and 897 were adolescents with two Norwegian-born parents. The gender distribution was similar in the immigrant and non-immigrant samples, 48.2% boys and 49.5% girls. Mean age for immigrant boys were 11.6 (SD 1.25), for non-immigrant boys 11.7 (SD 1.29), for immigrant girls 11.6 (SD = 1.25), and for non-immigrant girls 11.8 (SD = 1.27). Data were collected via self-report assessments.
Results: A multi-group structural equation model revealed that the effects of reactive and proactive aggression were different for conduct and emotional problems. Only reactive and power-related proactive aggression was significantly associated with conduct problems, and effect sizes were independent of immigrant status. The effects of reactive and power-related proactive aggression on emotional problems were stronger for non-immigrant early adolescents, while effects of affiliation-related proactive aggression were stronger for the immigrant-background early adolescents.
Conclusion: A better understanding of the underlying mechanisms of the associations between aggression and emotional problems, and the variation between immigrant and non-immigrant early adolescents, can shed more light on the ethology of mental health and behavioural problems. The importance of such knowledge in designing interventions targeting aggression among early adolescents in multi-cultural contexts is discussed.