Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health

, Volume 18, Issue 5, pp 957–965 | Cite as

Emotional and Behavioral Disorders in 1.5th Generation, 2nd Generation Immigrant Children, and Foreign Adoptees

  • Tony Xing TanEmail author
Original Paper


Existing theories (e.g., acculturative stress theory) cannot adequately explain why mental disorders in immigrants are less prevalent than in non-immigrants. In this paper, the culture-gene co-evolutionary theory of mental disorders was utilized to generate a novel hypothesis that connection to heritage culture reduces the risk for mental disorders in immigrant children. Four groups of children aged 2–17 years were identified from the 2007 United States National Survey of Children’s Health: 1.5th generation immigrant children (n = 1378), 2nd generation immigrant children (n = 4194), foreign adoptees (n = 270), and non-immigrant children (n = 54,877). The 1.5th generation immigrant children’s connection to their heritage culture is stronger than or similar to the 2nd generation immigrants, while the foreign adoptees have little connection to their birth culture. Controlling for age, sex, family type and SES, the odds for having ADD/ADHD, Conduct Disorder, Anxiety Disorder, and Depression diagnosis were the lowest for the 1.5th generation immigrant children, followed by the 2nd generation immigrant children and the foreign adoptees. The foreign adoptees and non-adopted children were similar in the odds of having these disorders. Connection to heritage culture might be the underlying mechanism that explained recent immigrants’ lower rates of mental disorders.


Foreign adoptees Immigrant children Cross-cultural migration Mental disorder Culture-gene co-evolution 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

Tony Tan, as the solo author of this manuscript, declares that he has no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

This article is a secondary data analysis on the publically available de-identified dataset of the 2007 National Survey of Child’s Health (NSCH).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Educational and Psychological Studies, College of EducationUniversity of South FloridaTampaUSA

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