New immi­grant youth in the United States commit sig­nif­i­cantly fewer acts of vio­lence against their peers than people born here, but appear to rapidly adopt social norms that per­pet­uate aggres­sive behavior, according to a study by a North­eastern Uni­ver­sity researcher and her colleagues.

The find­ings were reported online in a December edi­tion of the Journal of Inter­per­sonal Vio­lence and fea­tured Sunday in a story in The Boston Globe.

The research team ana­lyzed data from the 2008 Boston Youth Survey, which was com­pleted by more than 1,300 stu­dents in Boston public high schools in an effort to learn more about pat­terns of vio­lence among Boston youth.

They found that U.S.-born youth with a foreign-​​born parent and immi­grants who have lived in the United States for more than four years were roughly twice as likely as those who have lived in the United States for fewer than four years to commit acts of aggres­sion against their peers, including hit­ting, punching, and kicking.

Lead author Joanna Almeida, asso­ciate research sci­en­tist at Northeastern’s Insti­tute on Urban Health Research, has applied for a grant from the National Insti­tutes of Health to study the social and envi­ron­mental fac­tors that may con­tribute to the rapid increase in vio­lence among recent immigrants.

It’s pos­sible that there’s some­thing about the social envi­ron­ment in this country that’s con­tributing to foreign-​​born youth becoming vio­lent so quickly,” she said. “Per­haps it’s a way to cope with being bul­lied or dis­crim­i­nated against, or a con­se­quence of fac­tors such as crime and vio­lence in their new communities.”

Among the study’s other findings:

•Recent immi­grants were less likely than the other stu­dents to have used sub­stances in the last 30 days or to have per­formed poorly in school. These risk fac­tors didn’t account for their less vio­lent behavior, according to Almeida’s analysis.

•Roughly the same per­centage of recent immi­grants, non-​​recent immi­grants and U.S.-born youth com­mitted acts of emo­tional or verbal aggres­sion (picking on a peer) and rela­tional vio­lence (spreading lies or rumors about a peer).

•Pat­terns of vio­lence per­pe­tra­tion among immi­grant youth did not differ by race or ethnicity.

Researchers at the Boston Uni­ver­sity School of Public Health, Yale Uni­ver­sity School of Public Health and Uni­ver­sity of Mass­a­chu­setts Med­ical School, coau­thored the study.