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 <or=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.