Background: Warm, caring parenting with appropriate supervision and control is considered to contribute to the best mental health outcomes for young people. The extent to which this view on 'optimal' parenting and health applies across ethnicities, warrants further attention. We examined associations between perceived parental care and parental control and psychological well-being among ethnically diverse UK adolescents.
Methods: In 2003 a sample of 4349 pupils aged 11-13 years completed eight self-reported parenting items. These items were used to derive the parental care and control scores. Higher score represents greater care and control, respectively. Psychological well-being was based on total psychological difficulties score from Goodman's Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire, increasing score corresponding to increasing difficulties.
Results: All minority pupils had lower mean care and higher mean control scores compared with Whites. In models stratified by ethnicity, increasing parental care was associated with lower psychological difficulties score (better mental health) and increasing parental control with higher psychological difficulties score within each ethnic group, compared with reference categories. The difference in psychological difficulties between the highest and lowest tertiles of parental care, adjusted for age, sex, family type and socio-economic circumstances, was: White UK =-2.92 (95% confidence interval -3.72, -2.12); Black Caribbean =-2.08 (-2.94, -1.22); Nigerian/Ghanaian =-2.60 (-3.58, -1.62); Other African =-3.12 (-4.24, -2.01); Indian =-2.77 (-4.09, -1.45); Pakistani/ Bangladeshi =-3.15 (-4.27, -2.03). Between ethnic groups (i.e. in models including ethnicity), relatively better mental health of minority groups compared with Whites was apparent even in categories of low care and low autonomy. Adjusting for parenting scores, however, did not fully account for the protective effect of minority ethnicity.
Conclusions: Perceived quality of parenting is a correlate of psychological difficulties score for all ethnic groups despite differences in reporting. It is therefore likely that programmes supporting parenting will be effective regardless of ethnicity.