Papers from the International Association for Cross-Cultural Psychology Conferences

Publication Date

2016

Abstract

The high levels of immigration currently experienced by many Western counties have seen the development and wellbeing of the children of immigrants become an important research issue. However, findings about the developmental trajectories and outcomes for children of immigrants are highly inconsistent. In addition, identifying the factors that predict these outcomes has been hampered by the widespread confounding of parents’ immigration status with other predictors (e.g., mothers’ education, and fluency in the language of the host country). Immigration to Australia offers a context in which the influence of some of these variables can be untangled. Most recent immigrants are highly educated and fluent in English, regardless of their region of origin. This research uses data from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children to compare children of Australian-born mothers (n = 6,891) with children of immigrant mothers born in other English-speaking countries (n = 1,234), Continental Europe (n = 765) and Asia (n = 428) at 4, 6 and 8 years of age. At each age, children’s physical health problems (rating of global health), psychosocial wellbeing (Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire), proficiency in the English language (Adapted Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-III) and cognitive skills (4 years: Who am I?; 6 and 8 years: matrix reasoning subscale, WISC-IV) were assessed. Children’s outcomes, and the way these outcomes changed over time, were very similar regardless of their mothers’ immigration status or, immigrant mothers’ region of origin. In contrast, aspects of mothers’ parenting, proficiency in English, level of schooling, and symptoms of psychological distress were associated with many child outcomes at all ages. This is an optimistic finding, since these predictors are amenable to change.

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