Despite the increasing proportion of immigrant youth in U.S. school districts, no studies have investigated their perceptions of their school. This study examines factors associated with perceptions of school safety among immigrant youth within individual, family, peer, and school contexts. Data were drawn from Wave II of the Children of Immigrants Longitudinal Study (n = 4288) and hierarchical logistic regression analyses were conducted. African–Americans, females, and youth with limited English proficiency were more likely to perceive their school as unsafe. Youth who reported that family cohesion was important and those who had close friends perceived their school as safe. Also, those who experienced illegal activities in school reported feeling unsafe. Assessment and intervention in schools needs to consider individual and contextual factors associated with perceptions of school safety. Additional research is needed to examine individual and contextual factors related to immigrant youths’ perceptions of school.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Anderson DC. Curriculum, culture and community: the challenge of school violence. In: Tonry M, Moore M, editors. Youth violence. Chicago: University of Chicago Press; 1998. p. 317–63.
Lockwood D. Violence among middle school and high school students: analysis and implications for prevention. Washington, D.C.: National Institute of Justice; 1997.
Robers S, Kemp J, Rathbun A, Morgan RE: Indicators of school crime and safety (NCES 2014-042/NCJ 243299). Washington DC: National Center for Educational Statistics. US Department of Education and Bureau of Justice Statistics, Office of Justice Programs, US Department of Justice; 2014.
Hong JS, Eamon MK. Students’ perceptions of unsafe schools: an ecological systems analysis. J Child Fam Stud. 2012;21:428–38. doi:https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-011-9494-8.
United States Census Bureau. Current population survey. Washington, DC: US Census Bureau, Population Division; 2012.
Crosnoe R, Turley RNL. K-12 educational outcomes of immigrant youth. Fut Child. 2011;21:129–52. doi:https://doi.org/10.1353/foc.2011.0008.
Bogard M. Strengthening domestic violence theories: intersections of race, class, sexual orientation, and gender J Marriage. Fam Ther. 1999;25:275–89.
Milam AJ, Furr-Holden CDM, Leaf PJ. Perceived school and neighborhood safety, neighborhood violence and academic achievement in urban school children. Urban Rev. 2010;42:458–67. doi:https://doi.org/10.1007/s11256-010-0165-7.
Astor RA, Meyer HA. Where girls and women won’t go: female students‘, teachers‘, and social workers’ views of school safety. Soc Work Educ. 1999;21:201–19. doi:https://doi.org/10.1093/cs/21.4.201.
May DC, Dunaway RG. Covariates of fear of criminal victimization at school among adolescents. Sociol Spectr. 2000;20:149–68. doi:https://doi.org/10.1080/027321700279938.
Anderman EM, Kimweli DMS. Victimization and safety in schools serving early adolescents. J Early Adolesc. 1997;17:408–38. doi:https://doi.org/10.1177/0272431697017004004.
Mooij T, Fettelaar D. School and pupil effects on secondary pupils’ feelings of safety in school, around school, and at home. J Interp Viol. 2013;28:1240–66. doi:https://doi.org/10.1177/0886260512468242.
Bachman R, Randolph A, Brown BI. Predicting perceptions of fear at school and going to and from school for African American and White students: the effects of school security measures. Youth Soc. 2010;43:705–26. doi:https://doi.org/10.1177/0044118X10366674.
Graham S, Munniksma A, Juvonen J. Psychosocial benefits of cross-ethnic friendships in urban middle schools. Child Dev. 2014;85:469–83. doi:https://doi.org/10.1111/cdev.12159.
Peguero AA. Is immigration status relevant in school violence research? An analysis with Latino students. J School Hlth. 2008;78:397–404. doi:https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1746-1561.2008.00320.x.
Eamon MK, Altshuler SJ. Can we predict disruptive school behavior? Child Sch. 2004;26:23–37. doi:https://doi.org/10.1093/cs/26.1.23.
Woolley ME, Kol K, Bowen GL. The social context of school success for Latino middle school students: direct and indirect influences of teachers, family, and friends. J Early Adolesc. 2009;29:43–70. doi:https://doi.org/10.1177/0272431608324478.
Kazak AE. Fathers’ and mothers’ parenting behavior and beliefs as covariates of children’s social adjustment in the transition to school. J Fam Psychol. 2004;18:628–38. doi:https://doi.org/10.1037/0893-3220.127.116.118.
Park N. The role of subjective well-being in positive youth development. Ann Am Acad Pol Soc Sci. 2004;591:25–39. doi:https://doi.org/10.1177/0002716203260078.
Allen JP, Land D. Attachment in adolescence. In: Cassidy J, Shaver PR, editors. Handbook of attachment: Theory, research, and clinical applications. New York: Guilford Press; 1999. p. 319–35.
Garcia-Reid P, Reid RJ, Peterson NA. School engagement among Latino youth in an urban middle school context. Educ Urb Soc. 2005;37:257–75. doi:https://doi.org/10.1177/0013124505275534.
Brown BB. Peer groups and peer cultures. In: Feldman SS, Elliot GR, editors. At the threshold: the developing adolescent. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press; 1990. p. 171–96.
Cowie H, Hutson N, Oztug O, Myers C. The impact of peer support schemes on pupils’ perceptions of bullying, aggression and safety at school. Emot Beh Diff. 2008;13:63–71. doi:https://doi.org/10.1080/13632750701814708.
Astor RA, Benbenishty R, Vinokur AD, Zeira A. Arab and Jewish elementary school students’ perceptions of fear and school violence: understanding the influence of school context. Brit J Educ Psychol. 2006;76:91–118. doi:https://doi.org/10.1348/000709905X37307.
Glew GM, Fan MY, Katon W, Rivara FP. Bullying and school safety. J Pediatr. 2008;152:123–8. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpeds.2007.05.045.
Jacobson G, Riesch SK, Temkin BM, Kedrowski KM, Kluba N. Students feeling unsafe in school: fifth graders’ experiences. J Sch Nurs. 2011;27:149–59. doi:https://doi.org/10.1177/1059840510386612.
Juvonen J, Le VN, Kaganoff T, Augustine C, Constant L. Focus on the wonder years: challenges facing the American Middle School. Santa Monica, CA: RAND; 2004.
Nansel TR, Overpeck M, Pilla RS, Ruan W, Simons-Morton B, Scheidt P. Bullying behaviors among U.S. youth: prevalence and association with psychosocial adjustment. JAMA. 2001;285:2094–100. doi:https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.285.16.2094.
Waasdorp TE, Pas ET, O’Brennan LM, Bradshaw CP. A multilevel perspective on the climate of bullying: discrepancies among students, school staff, and parents. J Sch Viol. 2011;10:115–32. doi:https://doi.org/10.1080/15388220.2010.539164.
Biag M. Perceived school safety: visual narratives from the middle grades. J Sch Viol. 2014;13:165–87. doi:https://doi.org/10.1080/15388220.2013.831769.
Bachman R, Gunter WD, Bakken NW. Predicting feelings of school safety for lower, middle, and upper school students: a gender specific analysis. Appl Psych Crim Jus. 2011;7:59–76.
Kingery PM, Coggeshall MB, Alford AA. Violence at school: recent evidence from four national surveys. Psychol Sch. 1998;35:247–58. doi:https://doi.org/10.1002/(SICI)1520-6807(199807)35:3<247:AID-PITS5>3.0.CO;2-K.
Jaycox LH, Stein BD, Kataoka SH, Wong M, Fink A, Escudero P, Zaragoza C. Violence exposure, posttraumatic stress disorder, and depressive symptoms among recent immigrant schoolchildren. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2002;41:1104–10. doi:https://doi.org/10.1097/00004583-200209000-00011.
Juvonen J, Nishina A, Graham S. Ethnic diversity and perceptions of safety in urban middle school students. Psychol Sci. 2006;17:393–400. doi:https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9280.2006.01718.x.
Portes A, Rumbaut RG: Children of Immigrants Longitudinal Study (CILS), 1991–2006 (ICPSR20520.v2 ed.). Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research; 1991. doi: https://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR20520.v2.
Allison PD. Missing data: quantitative applications in the social science. Brit J Math Stat Psych. 2002;55:193–6. doi:https://doi.org/10.1348/000711002159653.
McLachlan GJ, Krishnan T, Ng SK. The EM algorithm (No. 2004, 24). Center for Applied Statistics and Economics: Papers/Humboldt-Universtat. Berlin; 2004.
Schafer JL, Graham JW. Missing data: our view of the state of the art. Psychol Meth. 2002;7:147–77. doi:https://doi.org/10.1037/1082-989X.7.2.147.
Peguero A. Schools, bullying, and inequality: intersecting factors and complexities with the stratification of youth victimization at school. Sociol Compass. 2012;6(5):402–12. doi:https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1751-9020.2012.00459.x.
Fenning P, Rose J. Overrepresentation of African American students in exclusionary discipline: the role of school policy. Urban Educ. 2007;42:536–59. doi:https://doi.org/10.1177/0042085907305039.
Seaton EK, Caldwell CH, Sellers RM, Jackson JS. The prevalence of perceived discrimination among African American and Caribbean Black youth. Dev Psych. 2008;44:1288–97. doi:https://doi.org/10.1037/a0012747.
Clark KE, Ladd GW. Connectedness and autonomy support in parent-child relationships: links to children’s socioemotional orientation and peer relationships. Dev Psych. 2000;36:485–98. doi:https://doi.org/10.1037/0012-1618.104.22.1685.
Boulton MJ, Trueman M, Chau C, Whitehand C, Amatya K. Concurrent and longitudinal links between friendship and peer victimization: implications for befriending interventions. J Adolesc. 1999;22:461–6. doi:https://doi.org/10.1006/jado.1999.0240.
Bowen NK, Bowen GL. Effects of crime and violence in neighborhoods and schools on the school behavior and performance of adolescents. J Adolesc Res. 1999;14:319–42. doi:https://doi.org/10.1177/0743558499143003.
Craig S, Hull K, Haggart AG, Perez-Selles M. Promoting cultural competence through teacher assistance teams. Teach Exc Child. 2000;32:6–12.
Ming K, Dukes C. Fostering cultural competence through school-based routines. Multicult Ed. 2006;14:42–8.
Ronneau JP. Teaching cultural competence: practical ideas for social work educators. J Multicult Soc Work. 1994;3:29–42. doi:https://doi.org/10.1300/J285v03n01_04.
Kernsmith PD, Hernandez-Jozefowicz DM. A gender-sensitive peer education program for sexual assault prevention in the schools. Child Sch. 2011;33:146–57. doi:https://doi.org/10.1093/cs/33.3.146.
Li G. What do parents think? Middle-class Chinese immigrant parents’ perspectives on literacy, learning, homework, and school-home communication. Sch Comm J. 2006;16:27–46.
Durlak JA, Weissberg RP, Dymnicki AB, Taylor RD, Schellinger KB. The impact of enhancing students’ social and emotional learning: a meta-analysis of school-based universal interventions. Child Dev. 2011;82:405–32. doi:https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8624.2010.01564.x.
Martinez S. A system gone berserk: how are zero-tolerance policies really affecting schools? Prev Sch Failure. 2009;53:153–8. doi:https://doi.org/10.3200/PSFL.53.3.153-158.
Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative: Safe and supportive schools. 2014. Available at: https://doi.org/traumasensitiveschools.org/get-involved/safe-and-supportive-schools/.
Hong JS, Peguero AA, Choi S, Lanesskog D, Espelage DL, Lee NY. Social ecology of bullying and peer victimization of Latino and Asian youth in the United States: a review of the literature. J Sch Viol. 2014;13:315–38. doi:https://doi.org/10.1080/15388220.2013.856013.
Peguero AA. Victimizing the children of immigrants: latino and Asian American student victimization. Youth Soc. 2009;41:186–208. doi:https://doi.org/10.1177/0044118X09333646.
Because Children of Immigrants Longitudinal Study (CILS) is a publicly available dataset, which does not allow for identification of the participants, the present study was exempted from Institutional Review Board oversight.
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest.
Because CILS is a publicly available dataset, there are no ethical issues with regards to human participants/animals in the present study.
Because CILS is a publicly available dataset, there are no ethical issues with regards to informed consent in the present study.
About this article
Cite this article
Hong, J.S., Merrin, G.J., Crosby, S. et al. Individual and Contextual Factors Associated with Immigrant Youth Feeling Unsafe in School: A Social-Ecological Analysis. J Immigrant Minority Health 18, 996–1006 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10903-015-0242-9
- Social-ecological framework