The Crime–Immigration Nexus: Cultural Alignment and Structural Influences in Self-Reported Serious Youth Delinquent Offending Among Migrant and Native Youth

Renske S. van der Gaag*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Young people with a migrant background are often overrepresented in crime statistics. This study used data from the third International Self-Report Delinquency (ISRD3) study to examine to what extent cultural alignment—cultural resemblance between host and heritage country—and structural influences—socioeconomic starting position and related disadvantage—mediated differences in offending between native students and students of four different migrant backgrounds—Western, Post-Communist, Asian, Middle Eastern—in five Western European countries. This study showed that all migrant groups, except for the Asian group, had significantly higher lifetime serious offending rates than native students. Opposed to the expectations, however, the Western group with the highest levels of cultural alignment—suggesting easier adaptation to the host country—also had the highest offending rates. In the mediation analysis, cultural alignment and structural disadvantage did not satisfactorily explain the relatively large differences in offending between Western and native students and further research would be needed to better understand these differences. In contrast, for the Middle Eastern group, structural disadvantage fully explained differences in offending with native students, also when accounting for cultural alignment; in other words, mechanisms related to structural disadvantage—for example, exposure to risks of delinquent development—for this group appeared to be more determining in explaining differences in offending with natives than their level of cultural alignment or background. For Asian and Post-Communist students, structural disadvantage mediated the largest part of the difference in offending with natives, but cultural alignment for these groups also explained part of this difference. This finding suggests that for these two groups mechanisms related to both cultural alignment—for example, acculturation processes, higher probability of parent–child conflict, and so on—and structural disadvantage are needed to understand differences in offending with native students.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)431-460
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Contemporary Criminal Justice
Volume35
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 11 Nov 2019

Keywords

  • adolescent development
  • culture
  • migrant youth
  • migration
  • social disadvantage
  • youth delinquency

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