Given the high number of refugee children and adolescents around the globe, it is critical to determine conditions that foster their adaptation in the receiving country. This study investigated the psychological adaptation of recently arrived adolescent refugees in Germany. We focused on whether psychological adaptation reflects the organizational approach taken by the school that refugee adolescents initially attended. School is an important context for the development and acculturation of young refugees. As in other European countries, the schooling of refugee adolescents in Germany is organized in different models: separate instruction in newcomer classes, direct immersion in regular classes, and mixed approaches. To answer our research questions, we used self-reported data from 700 refugee adolescents (12-, 14-, and 17-year-olds) in a representative survey of refugees in Germany. As indicators of their psychological adaptation, we analyzed their sense of school belonging, their emotional and behavioral problems, and their life satisfaction. Comparing them to non-refugee peers, the refugee adolescents showed similar levels of psychological adaptation, and an even higher level in the case of school belonging. Multiple regression analyses provide limited support for the assumed advantage of the mixed school organizational model: While students who initially attended a mixed approach reported higher levels of school belonging than those in other models, no differences emerged on the other indicators. We discuss the implications of our findings for the schooling of newly arrived refugees.

DOI: 10.1007/s10212-021-00582-w
ISSN: 0256-2928