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Open Access Research article

Multi-informant reports of mental health in Swedish-born children of immigrants and children born to non-immigrants – the SESBiC-study

Linda deKeyser1, Carl Göran Svedin2, Sara Agnafors2, Marie Bladh1 and Gunilla Sydsjö1*

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Linköping University, SE-581 85 Linköping, Sweden

2 Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Linköping University, SE-581 85 Linköping, Sweden

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BMC Pediatrics 2014, 14:95  doi:10.1186/1471-2431-14-95

Published: 8 April 2014

Abstract

Background

The European literature on mental health of the children of immigrants is limited. Therefore this study aims to investigate gender-specific mental health reported by teachers, parents and the children themselves in 12-year old children of immigrants and non-immigrants and also to study the level of agreement between the different informants.

Methods

This cross-sectional study is a part of the longitudinal South East Sweden Birth Cohort-study (the SESBiC-study) on children’s health. All children born in town in the south of Sweden 1995-1996 were invited to take part. The mothers of 1723 children (88%) consented. In this part 87 Swedish-born 12-year old children of immigrants and 687 12-year old children of non-immigrants were investigated regarding gender-specific differences in mental health as reported by teachers (Teacher-report form), parents (Child behavior checklist), and children (Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire) and the agreement reached between the informants.

Results

Parental immigrant status was not associated with mental health in any of the groups, but living arrangements and parental educational level were mainly found to have an effect on the health status of boys (TRF-Internalizing β = .77 95% CI = .02-1.52; TRF-Externalizing.β = 2.31 95% CI = .63-3.99; TRF-Total β = 6.22 95% CI = 2.27-10.18) The agreement between different informants was generally low, except for externalizing problems among boys (Boys of immigrant parents: Parent and teacher correlation ρ = .422 and Child teacher correlation ρ = .524, p-value < .05, respectively). The correlation between teachers and parents were lower in the index group compared to the reference group. In the index group, the correlations between teacher’s and children’s assessments were fairly high for boys but not for girls (ρ Total = .400, ρ Internalizing = .240 and ρ Externalizing = .524, p-value < .05 for Total and Externalizing).

Conclusion

This study confirms previous findings that the mental health of children of immigrants is similar to that of children of non-immigrants. We found that family factors have a greater impact on the reported mental health than immigrant status does. This might be of clinical importance for healthcare workers to recognize when investigating and treating children from other cultures.

Keywords:
Children of immigrants; Mental health; Multi-informant; Second-generation; SESBiC-study