School engagement trajectories of immigrant youth: Risks and longitudinal interplay with academic success

Frosso Motti-Stefanidi, Ann Masten, Jens B. Asendorpf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


We examined behavioral school engagement trajectories of immigrant and non-immigrant early adolescents in relation to their academic achievement. Data were based on teacher judgments and school records. Students from immigrant families living in Greece and their non-immigrant classmates (N = 1057) were assessed over the three years of middle school (ages 13 to 15). Academic achievement influenced later school engagement more strongly than vice versa for both immigrant and non-immigrant students. Low achievement, being an immigrant student and social adversity were found to be risk factors for the initial level of behavioral engagement. An overall increase in students' absenteeism over the course of the study was stronger for immigrant students. The immigrant status effect was due to immigrant students' lower achievement. The results suggest that immigrant youth may disengage from school to protect themselves from academic failure. This would also be a plausible explanation for earlier findings that immigrant and non-immigrant students do not differ in psychological well-being, even though immigrant students have significantly lower academic achievement. Implications for interventions to promote academic achievement and to prevent disengagement in immigrant students are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)32-42
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Behavioral Development
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 20 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project was supported by small grants from the Special Account for Research Grants of the University of Athens, Greece.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2014.


  • developmental psychopathology
  • immigration
  • longitudinal study
  • multi-level/hierarchical
  • school engagement


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