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Keywords:

  • Child behavior;
  • Pacific children;
  • behavior problems;
  • Child Behavior Checklist;
  • ethnicity;
  • longitudinal studies;
  • externalizing disorder;
  • internalizing disorder

Background:  The aim of this study was to determine (1) the prevalence of behavioral problems among two-year-old Pacific children living in New Zealand, (2) ethnic differences in behavioral problems, and (3) relationships between maternal and socio-demographic variables and problem child behavior.

Methods:  Data were gathered from the Pacific Islands Families (PIF) Study. Mothers of a cohort of 1398 Pacific infants born in Auckland, New Zealand during 2000 were interviewed when the children were two years of age. Maternal reports (1028) of child behavior were obtained using the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL).

Results:  In the PIF cohort, 15.6% of children were in the clinical range with one or more deviant scores from the seven syndrome scales, and 14% were in the borderline range. The prevalence rate of internalizing problems was 17.1% in the clinical range and 8.9% in the borderline range. The prevalence rate of externalizing problems was 6.6% in the clinical range and 13.7% in the borderline range. The prevalence rate of total problems was 14.2% in the clinical range and 9.6% in the borderline range. Discipline and maternal education were significantly associated with elevated externalizing scores. Household size, maternal education, cultural orientation, and number of years living in New Zealand were significantly associated with internalizing scores. Child ethnicity was significantly associated with internalizing, externalizing and total problem behavior scores. In the clinical range, child ethnicity and gender were significantly associated with the prevalence of problem behavior.

Conclusions:  Cross-ethnicity differences in CBCL scores were found, which illustrates the diversity in the Pacific population in New Zealand. Such findings highlight the way in which preschool behavior problems may vary within specific cultural settings and underscore the need for in-depth research to explore these unique contexts.