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Keywords:

  • children;
  • mental health;
  • Indigenous;
  • immigrant;
  • Australia

Abstract

Objectives: 1) profile the living environments and 2) examine the social and emotional outcomes of Australian children from Indigenous and cultural and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds at school entry.

Method: Secondary analysis of cross-sectional data collected in Wave 1 of the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (n=4,735). Child mental-health outcomes were measured using parent report of the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ).

Results: Significant differences in family and neighbourhood characteristics, including parental income, maternal education, maternal parenting quality and neighbourhood safety, were found in children of Indigenous and CALD backgrounds compared to the reference group of Australian-born, English-speaking children. After controlling for family and neighbourhood characteristics, significant differences in parent-reported SDQ total difficulties were found for Indigenous children. Significant differences in emotional difficulties and peer problems subscales were found for children with overseas-born mothers regardless of English proficiency.

Conclusions: Children from Indigenous and CALD backgrounds experience poorer mental health outcomes at school entry than their Australian-born English-speaking peers. They are also more likely to be exposed to risk factors for poor child mental-health outcomes within their family and neighbourhood environments.