Ethnic differences in longitudinal latent verbal profiles in the millennium cohort study

Eur J Public Health. 2016 Dec;26(6):1011-1016. doi: 10.1093/eurpub/ckw184. Epub 2016 Oct 10.


Background: Development of verbal skills during early childhood and school age years is consequential for children's educational achievement and adult outcomes. We examine ethnic differences in longitudinal latent verbal profiles and assess the contribution of family process and family resource factors to observed differences.

Methods: Using data from the UK Millennium Cohort Study and the latent profile analysis, we estimate longitudinal latent verbal profiles using verbal skills measured 4 times from age 3-11 years. We investigate the odds of verbal profiles by ethnicity (reported in infancy), and the extent observed differences are mediated by the home learning environment, family routines, and psychosocial environment (measured at age 3).

Results: Indian children were twice as likely (OR = 2.14, CI: 1.37-3.33) to be in the high achieving profile, compared to White children. Socioeconomic markers attenuated this advantage to nonsignificance. Pakistani and Bangladeshi children were significantly more likely to be in the low performing group (OR = 2.23, CI: 1.61-3.11; OR = 3.37, CI: 2.20-5.17, respectively). Socioeconomic and psychosocial factors had the strongest mediating influence on the association between lower achieving profiles and Pakistani children, whereas for Bangladeshi children, there was mediation by the home learning environment, family routines, and psychosocial factors.

Conclusion: Family process and resource factors explain ethnic differences in longitudinal latent verbal profiles. Family resources explain verbal advantages for Indian children, whereas a range of home environment and socioeconomic factors explain disparities for Pakistani and Bangladeshi children. Future policy initiatives focused on reducing ethnic disparities in children's development should consider supporting and enhancing family resources and processes.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Development*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Communication*
  • Environment
  • Ethnicity / statistics & numerical data*
  • Family
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Racial Groups / statistics & numerical data*
  • Socioeconomic Factors