Around the world, millions of people are emigrating to host societies very different from their home societies. The children of immigrant families may be affected by the challenges that prompt families to leave their home societies and the challenges of adapting to host societies. Like many large urban areas, Rotterdam, Netherlands, has thousands of immigrants from numerous societies. As part of the Generation R project, a longitudinal study that began by assessing pregnant mothers, Jansen et al. (2010) obtained CBCL/1½-5 ratings by 4,943 mothers when their children were 1½ years old. In addition to nonimmigrant Dutch mothers, the sample included substantial numbers of mothers from Cape Verde, the Dutch Antilles, Indonesia, Morocco, Surinam, Turkey, and European countries other than the Netherlands. CBCL Total Problems scores were found to be significantly higher for children from immigrant than nonimmigrant families, with children from nonEuropean immigrant families obtaining significantly higher scores than children from European immigrant families. Because various risk factors were associated with CBCL scores and were also more common among immigrant than Dutch families, Jansen et al. compared CBCL scores after controlling for risk factors such as low family income, maternal psychopathology, low educational level, single parenthood, high parity, and smoking in pregnancy. Controlling for the risk factors reduced differences between immigrant and Dutch CBCL scores, but CBCL scores remained significantly higher for children from immigrant than Dutch families. Among immigrant families, scores on the following variables were also associated with high CBCL scores: Mothers born in the home society versus mothers born in the Netherlands to immigrant mothers; poor maternal Dutch language skills; and mothers’ feelings that they were not accepted by Dutch natives.

Thus, factors related to immigration, plus risk factors not specific to immigration were separately associated with higher CBCL problem scores. Jansen et al. concluded that “Our results imply that both researchers and policy makers aiming to tackle ethnic disparities in behavioural problems should take into account the intertwined nature of national origin and family risk factors” (p. 1162).

Reference: Jansen, P.W., Raat, H., Mackenbach, J.P., Jaddoe, V.W.V., Hofman, A., van Oort, F.V., et al. (2010). National origin and behavioural problems of toddlers: The role of family risk factors and maternal immigration characteristics. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 38, 1151-1164.