Poverty, family process, and the mental health of immigrant children in Canada

Am J Public Health. 2002 Feb;92(2):220-7. doi: 10.2105/ajph.92.2.220.


Objectives: This study examined the differential effects of poverty on the mental health of foreign-born children, Canadian-born children of immigrant parents, and children of non-immigrant parents.

Methods: Secondary analysis of data from a national Canadian study of children between 4 and 11 years of age was conducted.

Results: Compared with their receiving-society counterparts, foreign-born children were more than twice as likely to live in poor families, but they had lower levels of emotional and behavioral problems. The effect of poverty on children's mental health among long-term immigrant and receiving-society families was indirect and primarily mediated by single-parent status, ineffective parenting, parental depression, and family dysfunction. In comparison, the mental health effect of poverty among foreign-born children could not be explained by the disadvantages that poor families often suffer.

Conclusions: Poverty may represent a transient and inevitable part of the resettlement process for new immigrant families. For long-stay immigrant and receiving-society families, however, poverty probably is not part of an unfolding process; instead, it is the nadir of a cycle of disadvantage.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Affective Symptoms / ethnology
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child Behavior Disorders / ethnology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Emigration and Immigration / statistics & numerical data*
  • Family / ethnology
  • Family / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health*
  • Models, Psychological
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Parenting / ethnology*
  • Poverty / ethnology*
  • Regression Analysis