, Volume 45, Issue 1, pp 115-123,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 07 Apr 2009

Ethnic differences in psychological well-being in adolescence in the context of time spent in family activities

Abstract

Background

In Britain and elsewhere there is ethnic variation in mental health in adulthood but less is known about adolescence. Few studies examining the role of family life in adolescent mental well-being have been based on a multi-ethnic UK sample. We explored whether family activities explain ethnic differences in mental health among adolescents in London, UK.

Method

These analyses are based on 4,349 Black Caribbean, Black African, Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi and White UK boys and girls aged 11–13, in 51 schools. Psychological well-being was measured as the total difficulties score from Goodman’s strengths and difficulties questionnaire (increasing score represents increasing difficulties).

Results

Participation in family activities varied by ethnicity. Compared with the White UK group, all minority groups were more likely to visit friends and relatives and go other places as a family. Black Caribbeans and Nigerian/Ghanaians were less likely and South Asian groups more likely to eat a meal together as a family. In multivariate analyses all minority groups had better well-being scores compared to Whites, independent of family type and socio-economic status (SES). Although adjusting for family activities slightly attenuated the association for South Asians, the minority ethnic advantage in psychological well-being remained [regression coefficients for Black Caribbeans = −0.66 (95% CI = −1.13, −0.20); Nigerian/Ghanaians = −1.27 (−1.81, −0.74); Other Africans = −1.43 (−2.00, −0.86); Indians = −1.15 (−1.73, −0.58); Pakistani/Bangladeshis = −0.66 (−1.20, −0.12)]. In analyses based on the whole group, all activity variables were independent correlates of psychological well-being. Multivariate models, stratified by ethnicity, showed that ≤weekly compared to daily family meals was associated with poorer mental health for all groups, except Black Caribbeans, independent of family type and SES.

Conclusion

Despite ethnic patterning of the frequency of family activities, adjusting for differences in these variables did not account for the better psychological well-being of minorities. Family activities were, however, important independent correlates of psychological well-being for all groups in this sample.