Migration can be viewed as a natural experiment in which persons of one culture have their beliefs, values and behaviours challenged by the host culture. Such a process could be expected to lead to adverse health consequences amongst migrants and their children. A variety of biological, cultural and socio-economic factors may contribute to the possibility that these children have different health outcomes than those of children from Australian born mothers. This study examines four broad domains of health amongst children of Australian migrants: birth outcomes, general / physical health, mental health and learning development in childhood and adolescence.
The data was taken from the Mater-University of Queensland Study of Pregnancy (MUSP), a longitudinal study of mothers and children which started in Brisbane, Australia, in 1981. The study comprises a cohort of over 8,000 women interviewed at their first ante-natal clinic visit and followed up at 3-5 days, six months, 5 and 14 years after the baby was born. Measures used to examine the health of children over time included birth weight, self-reports of medical and hospital use at 6 month, 5 year and 14 year follow-up (F/U), symptoms of externalising and internalising problems at 5 and 14 year FAJ (Child Behaviour Checklist) (CBCL) (Achenbach, 1991) and objective and subjective measures of learning development. Objective measures of learning development included the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test - Revised (PPVT-R) at 5 year F/U (Dunn & Dunn, 1981), the Raven's Standard Progressive Matrices (test of non verbal intelligence) (De Lemos, 1989) and the Wide Range Achievement Test (WRAT) (Wilkinson, 1993) at 14 year F/U. Subjective measures included mother's and child's self-reports of school performance and academic aspirations. This study applies a longitudinal approach to the health of migrant children in Australia by examining health changes over their life course. Biological and cultural factors which may impact on developmental health, are taken into account by observing the contribution of specific maternal effects, ranging from socio-economic status, lifestyle and parenting styles and mental health status of mothers. Children's migrant status was categorised according to their region of origin, country of origin and length of stay in Australia.
Results showed no significant differences between the general and mental health of 'second generation' children and their Australian counterparts according to the regions or countries of origin of mothers. This is despite differences in maternal lifestyle practices and parenting styles. Length of stay in Australia was not associated with internalising symptoms (anxiety and depression). There was a positive association, however, between the length of stay in Australia and increased externalising problems (aggression and delinquency) amongst the children at both 5 and 14 year F/U. Learning development was associated with better performance if children came from specific regions of origin, particularly South East Asia.
Children of migrants do not differ from comparable children of Australian born parents in their general and mental health. Children of migrant parents have fewer symptoms of some behaviour problems in the years after their arrival in Australia, but these rates increase to the Australian level over time. Those coming from specific regions and countries have better performance and academic aspirations than those born of Australian mothers and those coming from other regions. We conclude that, despite differences in a variety of lifestyle and social spheres, 2nd generation Australians experience the same patterns of health, and even better health in some domains, than children born of Australian mothers.