Social Psychology of Education

, Volume 22, Issue 3, pp 629–647 | Cite as

Brothers, ants or thieves: students’ complex attitudes towards immigrants and the role of socioeconomic status and gender in shaping them

  • Fabio Alivernini
  • Elisa CavicchioloEmail author
  • Sara Manganelli


The ever-increasing presence of immigrants in Italian schools make these contexts important for the study of young peoples’ attitudes towards those who are new to a country. We analysed the metaphors regarding immigrants produced by a sample of 840 eighth-grade students. The results of a content analysis showed nine complex attitudes referring to different conceptual frames, such as adolescents’ perception of immigrants as part of a primary social group, as a source of possible wealth, as something troublesome or annoying, as a transient phenomenon that is unlikely to be integrated into society and various others. The results of a multinomial logistic regression indicated that boys have more feelings of annoyance as regard immigrants than girls. A higher socioeconomic background is associated with ambivalent attitudes toward immigrants (who are seen as being needy, as a resource but also as a threat). Possible behavioural implications of the adolescents’ views of minority social and cultural groups are discussed.


Attitudes towards immigrants Adolescents Metaphors Socioeconomic status Gender 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

Each school dealt with the process of informed consent and parental permission according to a National assessment protocol provided by the National Institute for the Evaluation of the Education and Training System (INVALSI).


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National Institute for the Evaluation of the Education System (INVALSI)RomeItaly

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