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Ethnic differences in children's socioemotional difficulties: Findings from the Millennium Cohort Study


  • Zilanawala, Afshin
  • Sacker, Amanda
  • Nazroo, James
  • Kelly, Yvonne


This paper investigates ethnic differences in children's socioemotional difficulties and possible explanations for any observed inequalities. We used data collected from the fourth sweep of the Millennium Cohort Study when children were aged 7 years. We found that Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Black Caribbean children had significantly more socioemotional difficulties than White children. These differences were partially explained by the relative socioeconomic disadvantage of their families. After accounting for maternal and family environment factors, the differences for Pakistani children remained unexplained. In contrast, Black African children were the only ethnic minority group to have significantly fewer socioemotional difficulties. We investigated the role of four indicators of socioeconomic position in explaining these differences and found equivalised household income had the strongest influence on socioemotional difficulties, and that socioeconomic position associations with socioemotional difficulties were less apparent among Pakistani and Bangladeshi children. The association between adverse economic conditions and socioemotional difficulties was partially mediated by maternal psychological distress. In conclusion, unexplained ethnic differences in socioemotional difficulties were seen, with a disadvantage among Pakistani children and an advantage among Black African children. Our results point to the need to address economic deprivation among ethnic minority groups to reduce children's socioemotional difficulties.

Suggested Citation

  • Zilanawala, Afshin & Sacker, Amanda & Nazroo, James & Kelly, Yvonne, 2015. "Ethnic differences in children's socioemotional difficulties: Findings from the Millennium Cohort Study," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 134(C), pages 95-106.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:134:y:2015:i:c:p:95-106
    DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2015.04.012

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Fagg, James & Curtis, Sarah & Stansfeld, Stephen & Congdon, Peter, 2006. "Psychological distress among adolescents, and its relationship to individual, family and area characteristics in East London," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 63(3), pages 636-648, August.
    2. Han, Wen-Jui & Lee, RaeHyuck & Waldfogel, Jane, 2012. "School readiness among children of immigrants in the US: Evidence from a large national birth cohort study," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 34(4), pages 771-782.
    3. Priest, Naomi & Paradies, Yin & Trenerry, Brigid & Truong, Mandy & Karlsen, Saffron & Kelly, Yvonne, 2013. "A systematic review of studies examining the relationship between reported racism and health and wellbeing for children and young people," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 95(C), pages 115-127.
    4. repec:aph:ajpbhl:2000:90:11:1694-1698_8 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. James J. Heckman & Jora Stixrud & Sergio Urzua, 2006. "The Effects of Cognitive and Noncognitive Abilities on Labor Market Outcomes and Social Behavior," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(3), pages 411-482, July.
    6. repec:aph:ajpbhl:10.2105/ajph.2012.300832_2 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. West, Patrick, 1997. "Health inequalities in the early years: Is there equalisation in youth?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 44(6), pages 833-858, March.
    8. repec:aph:ajpbhl:2003:93:2:277-284_5 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Reiss, Franziska, 2013. "Socioeconomic inequalities and mental health problems in children and adolescents: A systematic review," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 90(C), pages 24-31.
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    1. repec:kap:poprpr:v:36:y:2017:i:5:d:10.1007_s11113-017-9445-1 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Burkey, Matthew D. & Ghimire, Lajina & Adhikari, Ramesh Prasad & Wissow, Lawrence S. & Jordans, Mark J.D. & Kohrt, Brandon A., 2016. "The ecocultural context and child behavior problems: A qualitative analysis in rural Nepal," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 159(C), pages 73-82.


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