Development of ethnic disparities in internalizing and externalizing problems from adolescence into young adulthood
Background: Little is known about changes in ethnic disparities in mental health during the development of adolescents into young adults. The aim of this study was to study the development of disparities in internalizing and externalizing problems between Dutch natives and Turkish migrant children from adolescence into adulthood. Methods: Turkish migrants (n = 217) and Dutch natives (n = 723) completed two comparable questionnaires about internalizing and externalizing problems: the Youth Self-Report at age 11-18 and the (Young) Adult Self-Report ten years later, at age 21-28. We used mixed linear regression models to model development of mental health problems and to test changes in disparities in mental health between Turkish migrants and Dutch natives. Results: Both in adolescence and in adulthood migrants reported more internalizing and externalizing problems than natives, most pronounced for internalizing problems. Disparities decreased from adolescence into adulthood for both internalizing problems (-52%, p <.0001) and externalizing problems (-67%, p =.01), independently of gender, age, country of birth of Turkish adolescents, and parental socio-economic position. The favorable changes in the disparities over time were due to more favorable development among Turkish migrants than among natives. Conclusion: In this prospective study, ethnic disparities in internalizing and externalizing problems decreased as adolescents entered adulthood. Different explanations are discussed.