Developmental Health and Well-being of Children Born to Immigrant and Refugee Families

Children of immigrants and refugees entering Canada represent a potentially vulnerable and understudied group.  The role of specific cultural and/or national characteristics in supporting or hindering immigrants’ integration into Canadian society, and particularly the health and well-being of their children, is not well understood.  We know little about the familial or neighbourhood determinants of positive or negative developmental outcomes for B.C.’s immigrant children.  Despite language and socio-economic barriers many of children of immigrants succeed in school.  Others do not.

HELP’s Developmental Health and Well-being of Children Born to Immigrant and Refugee Families research project is looking to provide insight into this group of children.  With a focus on the largest immigrant groups in British Columbia, including Chinese, South Asian, Filipino and South East Asian, the Developmental Health and Well-being of Children Born to Immigrant and Refugee Families research project is investigating the socio-cultural determinants of children’s resilience.  The project is examining how immigrant families’ culture, values, beliefs, meanings, traditions and languages interact with their residential neighbourhood and socio-economic status, to influence the long term physical health, mental health, and educational outcomes of their children.

Children and youth of immigrants growing up in non-English speaking homes encounter significant challenges related to culture and language as they enter and make their way through the school system. Poverty and other domestic stresses present additional challenges for immigrant families.

Using EDI data to examine children’s well-being, HELP is finding that kindergarten children’s developmental health does differ depending on cultural backgrounds, even after poverty is taken into account.  At the same time , though we have established that Kindergarten to 4th grade academic outcomes are clearly influenced by socioeconomic status, there are some neighbourhoods, many of which are densely populated by immigrant families, that do not fit this pattern.  They are resilient neighbourhoods.

Continuing to Build Community/University Research Partnerships

The Developmental Health and Well-being of Children Born to Immigrant and Refugee Families in B.C. project is an example of how HELP is building community/university partnerships.  Central to this project is HELP’s Immigrant and Refugee Project Advisory Committee, a group of community stakeholders who are advising researchers based on their “on-the-ground” experience, working with immigrant and newcomer families.  In addition, the Advisory Committee is assisting in the creation of a knowledge translation strategy to ensure findings are available and accessible to community stakeholders across the province.