Psychosocial processes are implicated as mediators of racial/ethnic health disparities via dysregulation of physiological responses to stress. Our aim was to investigate the extent to which factors previously documented as buffering the impact of high-risk family environments on Aboriginal youths’ psychosocial functioning were similarly beneficial for their physical health status.
Method and Results
We examined the relationship between psychosocial resilience and physical health of urban Aboriginal youth (12–17 years, n = 677) drawn from a representative survey of Western Australian Aboriginal children and their families. A composite variable of psychosocial resilient status, derived by cross-classifying youth by high/low family risk exposure and normal/abnormal psychosocial functioning, resulted in four groups- Resilient, Less Resilient, Expected Good and Vulnerable. Separate logistic regression modeling for high and low risk exposed youth revealed that Resilient youth were significantly more likely to have lower self-reported asthma symptoms (OR 3.48, p<.001) and carer reported lifetime health problems (OR 1.76, p<.04) than Less Resilient youth.
The findings are consistent with biopsychosocial models and provide a more nuanced understanding of the patterns of risks, resources and adaptation that impact on the physical health of Aboriginal youth. The results support the posited biological pathways between chronic stress and physical health, and identify the protective role of social connections impacting not only psychosocial function but also physical health. Using a resilience framework may identify potent protective factors otherwise undetected in aggregated analyses, offering important insights to augment general public health prevention strategies.
Oral language is the foundation of literacy. Naturally, policies and practices to promote children’s literacy begin in early childhood and have a strong focus on developing children’s oral language, especially for children with known risk factors for low language ability. The underlying assumption is that children’s progress along the oral to literate continuum is stable and predictable, such that low language ability foretells low literacy ability. This study investigated patterns and predictors of children’s oral language and literacy abilities at 4, 6, 8 and 10 years. The study sample comprised 2,316 to 2,792 children from the first nationally representative Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC). Six developmental patterns were observed, a stable middle-high pattern, a stable low pattern, an improving pattern, a declining pattern, a fluctuating low pattern, and a fluctuating middle-high pattern. Most children (69%) fit a stable middle-high pattern. By contrast, less than 1% of children fit a stable low pattern. These results challenged the view that children’s progress along the oral to literate continuum is stable and predictable.
Multivariate logistic regression was used to investigate risks for low literacy ability at 10 years and sensitivity-specificity analysis was used to examine the predictive utility of the multivariate model. Predictors were modelled as risk variables with the lowest level of risk as the reference category. In the multivariate model, substantial risks for low literacy ability at 10 years, in order of descending magnitude, were: low school readiness, Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander status and low language ability at 8 years. Moderate risks were high temperamental reactivity, low language ability at 4 years, and low language ability at 6 years. The following risk factors were not statistically significant in the multivariate model: Low maternal consistency, low family income, health care card, child not read to at home, maternal smoking, maternal education, family structure, temperamental persistence, and socio-economic area disadvantage. The results of the sensitivity-specificity analysis showed that a well-fitted multivariate model featuring risks of substantive magnitude did not do particularly well in predicting low literacy ability at 10 years.
This study aimed to examine friendship networks and social support outcomes for mothers according to patterns of playgroup participation.
Data from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children were used to examine the extent to which patterns of playgroup participation across the ages of 3–19 months (Wave 1) and 2–3 years (Wave 2) were associated with social support outcomes for mothers at Wave 3 (4–5 years) and four years later at Wave 5 (8–9 years). Analyses were adjusted for initial friendship attachments at Wave 1 and other socio-demographic characteristics.
Log-binomial regression models estimating relative risks showed that mothers who never participated in a playgroup, or who participated at either Wave 1 or Wave 2 only, were 1.7 and 1.8 times as likely to report having no support from friends when the child was 4–5 years, and 2.0 times as likely to have no support at age 8–9 years, compared with mothers who persistently participated in playgroup at both Wave 1 and Wave 2.
These results provide evidence that persistent playgroup participation may acts as a protective factor against poor social support outcomes. Socially isolated parents may find playgroups a useful resource to build their social support networks.
This study investigated the etiology of Late Language Emergence (LLE)
in 24-month-old twins considering possible twinning, zygosity, gender, and
heritability effects for vocabulary and grammar phenotypes.
A population-based sample of 473 twin pairs participated. Multilevel
modelling estimated means and variances of vocabulary and grammar
phenotypes, controlling for familiality. Heritability was estimated with
DeFries-Fulker regression, and variance components models, to determine
effects of heritability, shared-environment, and non-shared environment.
Twins had lower average language scores than norms for singleborn
children, with lower average performance for MZ than DZ twins, and lower for
boys than girls, although gender and zygosity did not interact. Gender did
not predict LLE. Significant heritability was detected for vocabulary (.26)
and grammar phenotypes (.52/.43 for males/females) in the full sample, and
in the sample selected for LLE (.42 and .44). LLE and the appearance of Word
Combinations were also significantly heritable (.22-.23).
The findings revealed an increased likelihood of LLE in twin toddlers
compared to singleborn children that is modulated by zygosity and gender
differences. Heritability estimates are consistent with previous research
for vocabulary and add further suggestion of heritable differences in early
The aims of this study were to assess participatory methods for obtaining community views on child health research.
Community participation in research is recognised as an important part of the research process; however, there has been inconsistency in its implementation and application in Australia. The Western Australian Telethon Kids Institute Participation Program employs a range of methods for fostering active involvement of community members in its research. These include public discussion forums, called Community Conversations. While participation levels are good, the attendees represent only a sub-section of the Western Australian population. Therefore, we conducted a telephone survey of randomly selected households to evaluate its effectiveness in eliciting views from a broader cross-section of the community about our research agenda and community participation in research, and whether the participants would be representative of the general population. We also conducted two Conversations, comparing the survey as a recruitment tool and normal methods using the Participation Program.
While the telephone survey was a good method for eliciting community views about research, there were marked differences in the profile of study participants compared to the general population (e.g. 78% vs 50% females). With a 26% response rate, the telephone survey was also more expensive than a Community Conversation. The cold calling approach proved an unsuccessful recruitment method, with only two out of a possible 816 telephone respondents attending a Conversation.
While the results showed that both of the methods produced useful input for our research program, we could not conclude that either method gained input that was representative of the entire community. The Conversations were relatively low-cost and provided more in-depth information about one subject, whereas the telephone survey provided information across a greater range of subjects, and allowed more quantitative analysis.
To test the fit of a seven-syndrome model to ratings of preschoolers' problems by parents in very diverse societies.
Parents of 19,106 children 18 to 71 months of age from 23 societies in Asia, Australasia, Europe, the Middle East, and South America completed the Child Behavior Checklist for Ages 1.5–5 (CBCL/1.5–5). Confirmatory factor analyses were used to test the seven-syndrome model separately for each society.
The primary model fit index, the root mean square error of approximation (RMSEA), indicated acceptable to good fit for each society. Although a six-syndrome model combining the Emotionally Reactive and Anxious/Depressed syndromes also fit the data for nine societies, it fit less well than the seven-syndrome model for seven of the nine societies. Other fit indices yielded less consistent results than the RMSEA.
The seven-syndrome model provides one way to capture patterns of children's problems that are manifested in ratings by parents from many societies. Clinicians working with preschoolers from these societies can thus assess and describe parents' ratings of behavioral, emotional, and social problems in terms of the seven syndromes. The results illustrate possibilities for culture–general taxonomic constructs of preschool psychopathology. Problems not captured by the CBCL/1.5–5 may form additional syndromes, and other syndrome models may also fit the data.
preschoolers; assessment; taxonomy; multicultural; confirmatory factor analysis
International comparisons were conducted of preschool children’s behavioral and emotional problems as reported on the Child Behavior Checklist for Ages 1½–5 by parents in 24 societies (N =19,850). Item ratings were aggregated into scores on syndromes; Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders–oriented scales; a Stress Problems scale; and Internalizing, Externalizing, and Total Problems scales. Effect sizes for scale score differences among the 24 societies ranged from small to medium (3–12%). Although societies differed greatly in language, culture, and other characteristics, Total Problems scores for 18 of the 24 societies were within 7.1 points of the omnicultural mean of 33.3 (on a scale of 0–198). Gender and age differences, as well as gender and age interactions with society, were all very small (effect sizes <1%). Across all pairs of societies, correlations between mean item ratings averaged .78, and correlations between internal consistency alphas for the scales averaged .92, indicating that the rank orders of mean item ratings and internal consistencies of scales were very similar across diverse societies.
We investigate whether the profile of factors protecting psychosocial functioning of high risk exposed Australian Aboriginal youth are the same as those promoting psychosocial functioning in low risk exposed youth. Data on 1,021 youth aged 12–17 years were drawn from the Western Australian Aboriginal Child Health Survey (WAACHS 2000–2002), a population representative survey of the health and well-being of Aboriginal children, their families and community contexts. A person-centered approach was used to define four groups of youth cross-classified according to level of risk exposure (high/low) and psychosocial functioning (good/poor). Multivariate logistic regression was used to model the influence of individual, family, cultural and community factors on psychosocial outcomes separately for youth in high and low family-risk contexts. Results showed that in high family risk contexts, prosocial friendship and low area-level socioeconomic status uniquely protected psychosocial functioning. However, in low family risk contexts the perception of racism increased the likelihood of poor psychosocial functioning. For youth in both high and low risk contexts, higher self-esteem and self-regulation were associated with good psychosocial functioning although the relationship was non-linear. These findings demonstrate that an empirical resilience framework of analysis can identify potent protective processes operating uniquely in contexts of high risk and is the first to describe distinct profiles of risk, protective and promotive factors within high and low risk exposed Australian Aboriginal youth.
Receptive vocabulary development is a component of the human language system that emerges in the first year of life and is characterised by onward expansion throughout life. Beginning in infancy, children's receptive vocabulary knowledge builds the foundation for oral language and reading skills. The foundations for success at school are built early, hence the public health policy focus on reducing developmental inequalities before children start formal school. The underlying assumption is that children's development is stable, and therefore predictable, over time. This study investigated this assumption in relation to children's receptive vocabulary ability. We investigated the extent to which low receptive vocabulary ability at 4 years was associated with low receptive vocabulary ability at 8 years, and the predictive utility of a multivariate model that included child, maternal and family risk factors measured at 4 years. The study sample comprised 3,847 children from the first nationally representative Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC). Multivariate logistic regression was used to investigate risks for low receptive vocabulary ability from 4–8 years and sensitivity-specificity analysis was used to examine the predictive utility of the multivariate model. In the multivariate model, substantial risk factors for receptive vocabulary delay from 4–8 years, in order of descending magnitude, were low receptive vocabulary ability at 4 years, low maternal education, and low school readiness. Moderate risk factors, in order of descending magnitude, were low maternal parenting consistency, socio-economic area disadvantage, low temperamental persistence, and NESB status. The following risk factors were not significant: One or more siblings, low family income, not reading to the child, high maternal work hours, and Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander ethnicity. The results of the sensitivity-specificity analysis showed that a well-fitted multivariate model featuring risks of substantive magnitude does not do particularly well in predicting low receptive vocabulary ability from 4–8 years.
In recent years there has been an increasing interest in overprotective parenting and the potential role it plays in child development. While some have argued that a trend towards increased parental fear and reduced opportunity for independent mobility may be linked to increasing rates of child overweight and obesity, there is limited empirical information available to support this claim. Using data from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children, this study aimed to examine the longitudinal relationships between maternal protectiveness and child overweight and obesity. A cohort of 4–5 year old children was followed up at 6–7, 8–9 and 10–11 years of age (n = 2596). Measures included a protective parenting scale administered when children were 6–7 and 8–9 years of age, child body mass index (BMI), family characteristics including household income, neighbourhood disadvantage, child's position amongst siblings, and maternal BMI, education, employment, mental health and age at first birth. International Obesity Taskforce age- and sex-specific BMI cut points were used to determine if children were in the normal, overweight or obese BMI range. There was no association between maternal protectiveness and the odds of children being overweight or obese at age 4–5, 6–7 or 8–9 years. However at age 10–11 years, a 1 standard deviation increase in maternal protectiveness was associated with a 13% increase in the odds of children being overweight or obese. The results provide evidence of a relationship between maternal protectiveness and child overweight and obesity, however further research is required to understand the mechanism(s) that links the two concepts.
Australia, Canada, and New Zealand are all developed nations that are home to Indigenous populations which have historically faced poorer outcomes than their non-Indigenous counterparts on a range of health, social, and economic measures. The past several decades have seen major efforts made to close gaps in health and social determinants of health for Indigenous persons. We ask whether relative progress toward these goals has been achieved.
We used census data for each country to compare outcomes for the cohort aged 25–29 years at each census year 1981–2006 in the domains of education, employment, and income.
The percentage-point gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous persons holding a bachelor degree or higher qualification ranged from 6.6% (New Zealand) to 10.9% (Canada) in 1981, and grew wider over the period to range from 19.5% (New Zealand) to 25.2% (Australia) in 2006. The unemployment rate gap ranged from 5.4% (Canada) to 16.9% (Australia) in 1981, and fluctuated over the period to range from 6.6% (Canada) to 11.0% (Australia) in 2006. Median Indigenous income as a proportion of non-Indigenous median income (whereby parity = 100%) ranged from 77.2% (New Zealand) to 45.2% (Australia) in 1981, and improved slightly over the period to range from 80.9% (Canada) to 54.4% (Australia) in 2006.
Australia, Canada, and New Zealand represent nations with some of the highest levels of human development in the world. Relative to their non-Indigenous populations, their Indigenous populations were almost as disadvantaged in 2006 as they were in 1981 in the employment and income domains, and more disadvantaged in the education domain. New approaches for closing gaps in social determinants of health are required if progress on achieving equity is to improve.
Indigenous; Inequality; Social determinants of health; Education; Unemployment; Income
It is well known that children of parents with mental illness are at greater risk of mental illness themselves. However the patterns of familial mental health problems across multiple generations in families are less clear. This study aimed to examine mental health relationships across three generations of Australian families.
Mental health data, along with a range of family demographic information, were collected from over 4600 families in Growing Up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children, a nationally representative cohort study. The social and emotional wellbeing of two cohorts of children aged 4–5 years and 8–9 years was measured using the parent-rated Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ). The mental health of mothers and fathers was measured using the Kessler 6-item K6 scale, and the mental health history of maternal and paternal grandmothers and grandfathers was measured using a dichotomous parent-report item. Multivariate linear regression analyses were used assess the relationships between grandparent and parent mental health and child social and emotional wellbeing at ages 4–5 years and 8–9 years.
Both cohorts of children had greater mental health distress with higher SDQ scores on average if their mother or father had a mental health problem. For children aged 8–9 years, a history of mental health problems in maternal grandmothers and grandfathers was associated with higher SDQ scores in grandchildren, after controlling for maternal and paternal mental health and other family characteristics. For children aged 4–5 years, only a mental health history in paternal grandfathers was associated with higher SDQ scores.
The mental health histories of both parents and grandparents play an important role in the social and emotional wellbeing of young children.
Intergenerational transfer; Mental health; Children and families
Receptive vocabulary develops rapidly in early childhood and builds the foundation for language acquisition and literacy. Variation in receptive vocabulary ability is associated with variation in children's school achievement, and low receptive vocabulary ability is a risk factor for under-achievement at school. In this study, bivariate and multivariate growth curve modelling was used to estimate trajectories of receptive vocabulary development in relation to a wide range of candidate child, maternal and family level influences on receptive vocabulary development from 4–8 years. The study sample comprised 4332 children from the first nationally representative Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC). Predictors were modeled as risk variables with the lowest level of risk as the reference category. In the multivariate model, risks for receptive vocabulary delay at 4 years, in order of magnitude, were: Maternal Non- English Speaking Background (NESB), low school readiness, child not read to at home, four or more siblings, low family income, low birthweight, low maternal education, maternal mental health distress, low maternal parenting consistency, and high child temperament reactivity. None of these risks were associated with a lower rate of growth from 4–8 years. Instead, maternal NESB, low school readiness and maternal mental health distress were associated with a higher rate of growth, although not sufficient to close the receptive vocabulary gap for children with and without these risks at 8 years. Socio-economic area disadvantage, was not a risk for low receptive vocabulary ability at 4 years but was the only risk associated with a lower rate of growth in receptive vocabulary ability. At 8 years, the gap between children with and without socio-economic area disadvantage was equivalent to eight months of receptive vocabulary growth. These results are consistent with other studies that have shown that social gradients in children's developmental outcomes increase over time.
High consumption of refined carbohydrate, in particular sugar, has been identified as a possible contributory factor in greater risk of excess weight gain. In spite of data limitations, one recent paper suggests that Australian sugar consumption has decreased over the same time period that obesity has increased, a so called ‘Australian Paradox’. Given the significant public health focus on nutrition, we aimed to estimate Australian sugar supply and consumption over recent decades, to determine whether these data could be used to make any conclusions about sugar’s role in obesity.
Foods high in sugar were identified. Data relating to sugar supply and consumption from 1988 to 2010 were obtained from multiple sources. Using these data we attempted to generate a time series estimate of sugar in Australia’s food supply.
Australia produces and exports sugar from sugar cane and the sugar in imported foods has received little attention. We were unable to produce a reliable and robust estimate of total sugars in the Australian diet due to data limitations and a lack of current data sources. However, available Import data showed large increases in the volume and value of imported sweetened products between 1988 and 2010 to over 30 grams of sugar per person per day. Value estimates of local production of sweetened products also show substantial increases in this period.
The Australian Paradox assertion is based on incomplete data, as it excludes sugar contained in imported processed foods, which have increased markedly. A major Australian public health target is to improve the quality of the food supply, and actions have been set in terms of achieving broader environmental changes. However, evaluation of progress is hampered by lack of high quality data relating to supply and consumption. We recommend the regular collection of comprehensive food supply statistics, which include both local production and imports. This would provide an inexpensive addition to survey data and could assist in monitoring sugar consumption trends in food supply. Such information would also help inform public health policy.
Public health; Sugar; Obesity; Food supply
To characterise fetal brain growth in children with specific language impairment (SLI).
A nested case–control study.
Perth, Western Australia.
Thirty children meeting criteria for SLI at age 10 years were individually matched with a typically developing comparison child on sex, non-verbal ability, fetal gestational age, maternal age at conception, smoking and alcohol intake during pregnancy.
Main outcome measures
Occipitofrontal head circumference (HC) was measured using ultrasonography at approximately 18 weeks gestation. Femur length provided a measure of fetal length. Occipitofrontal HC was measured at birth and at the 1-year postnatal follow-up using a precise paper tape measure, while crown-heel length acted as an index of body length at both time points. Raw data were transformed to z-scores using reference norms.
The SLI group had a significantly smaller mean HC than the typically developing comparison children at birth, but there was no group difference at 18 weeks gestation or at the 1-year postnatal follow-up. Individual analyses found that 12 SLI children had an HC z-score less than −1 at birth, with three of these cases meeting criteria for microcephaly. There was no group difference in the indices of overall body size at any time point.
Children with SLI are more likely to have a small HC at birth but not at 18 weeks gestation or infancy, suggesting growth asynchrony in brain development during the second half of pregnancy.
Fetal growth is an important risk factor for infant morbidity and mortality. In turn, socioeconomic status is a key predictor of fetal growth; however, other sociodemographic factors and environmental effects may also be important. This study modelled geographic variation in poor fetal growth after accounting for socioeconomic status, with a fixed effect for socioeconomic status and a combination of spatially-correlated and spatially-uncorrelated random effects. The dataset comprised 88,246 liveborn singletons, aggregated within suburbs in Perth, Western Australia. Low socioeconomic status was strongly associated with an increased risk of poor fetal growth. An increase in geographic variation of poor fetal growth from 1999–2001 (interquartile odds ratio among suburbs = 1.20) to 2004–2006 (interquartile odds ratio = 1.40) indicated a widening risk disparity by socioeconomic status. Low levels of residual spatial patterns strengthen the case for targeting policies and practices in areas of low socioeconomic status for improved outcomes. This study indicates an alarming increase in geographic inequalities in poor fetal growth in Perth which warrants further research into the specific aspects of socioeconomic status that act as risk factors.
poor fetal growth; socioeconomic status; conditional autoregression; spatial variation
High rates of smoking and lower rates of smoking cessation are known to be associated with common mental disorders such as anxiety and depression, and with individual and community measures of socioeconomic status. It is not known to what extent mental illness and socioeconomic status might be jointly associated with smoking behaviour. We set out to examine the relationship between mental illness, measures of socioeconomic disadvantage and both current smoking and smoking cessation rates.
We used data from the 2007 Australian National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing to examine the relationship between mental illness, socioeconomic status and both current smoking and smoking cessation. We used cross-classified tables and logistic regression to examine the relationship between psychosocial and sociodemographic predictors and current smoking. We also used proportional hazards regression to examine the relationship between the factors and smoking cessation.
Both mental illness and socioeconomic status were independently associated with current smoking and with lower likelihood of smoking cessation, with gradients in smoking by mental health status being observed within levels of socioeconomic indicators and vice versa. Having a mental illness in the past 12 months was the most prevalent factor strongly associated with smoking, affecting 20.0% of the population, associated with increased current smoking (OR 2.43; 95% CI: 1.97-3.01) and reduced likelihood of smoking cessation (HR: 0.77; 95% CI: 0.65-0.91).
The association between mental illness and smoking is not explained by the association between mental illness and socioeconomic status. There are strong socioeconomic and psychosocial gradients in both current smoking and smoking cessation. Incorporating knowledge of the other adverse factors in smokers’ lives may increase the penetration of tobacco control interventions in population groups that have historically benefitted less from these activities.
Despite the increasing understanding of the mechanisms relating to weight loss and maintenance, there are currently no validated public health interventions that are able to achieve sustained long-term weight loss or to stem the increasing prevalence of obesity in the population. We aimed to examine the models of energy balance underpinning current research about weight-loss intervention from the field of public health, and to determine whether they are consistent with the model provided by basic science. EMBASE was searched for papers published in 2011 on weight-loss interventions. We extracted details of the population, nature of the intervention, and key findings for 27 articles.
Most public health interventions identified were based on a simple model of energy balance, and thus attempted to reduce caloric consumption and/or increase physical activity in order to create a negative energy balance. There appeared to be little consideration of homeostatic feedback mechanisms and their effect on weight-loss success. It seems that there has been a lack of translation between recent advances in understanding of the basic science behind weight loss, and the concepts underpinning the increasingly urgent efforts to reduce excess weight in the population.
Public health weight-loss interventions seem to be based on an outdated understanding of the science. Their continued failure to achieve any meaningful, long-term results reflects the need to develop intervention science that is integrated with knowledge from basic science. Instead of asking why people persist in eating too much and exercising too little, the key questions of obesity research should address those factors (environmental, behavioral or otherwise) that lead to dysregulation of the homeostatic mechanism of energy regulation. There is a need for a multidisciplinary approach in the design of future weight-loss interventions in order to improve long-term weight-loss success.
Energy balance; obesity; public health; weight-loss intervention
The primary objectives of this study were to determine the prevalence of late language emergence (LLE) and to investigate the predictive status of maternal, family, and child variables.
This is a prospective cohort study of 1766 epidemiologically ascertained twenty-four-month singleton children. The framework was an ecological model of child development, encompassing a wide range of maternal, family, and child variables. Data were obtained using postal questionnaire. Item analyses of the 6-item Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ) Communication Scale yielded a composite score encompassing comprehension as well as production items. One standard deviation below the mean yielded good separation of affected from unaffected children. Analyses of bivariate relationships with maternal, family, and child variables were carried out, followed by multivariate logistic regression to predict LLE group membership.
13.4% of the sample showed late language emergence via the ASQ criterion; 19.1% using a single item “combining words.” Risk for LLE at 24 months was not associated with particular strata of parental educational levels, socioeconomic resources, parental mental health, parenting practices or family functioning. Significant predictors included familial history of late language emergence, male gender and early neurobiological growth. Covariates included psychosocial indicators.
Results are congruent with models of language emergence and impairment that posit a strong role for neurobiological and genetic mechanisms of onset that operate across a wide variation in maternal and family characteristics.
Objectives: To examine factors that impact on breastfeeding duration among Western Australian Aboriginal children. We hypothesised that Aboriginal children living in remote locations in Western Australia were breastfed for longer than those living in metropolitan locations. Methods: A population-based cross-sectional survey was conducted from 2000 to 2002 in urban, rural and remote settings across Western Australia. Cross-tabulations and multivariate logistic regression analyses were performed, using survey weights to produce unbiased estimates for the population of Aboriginal children. Data on demographic, maternal and infant characteristics were collected from 3932 Aboriginal birth mothers about their children aged 0–17 years (representing 22,100 Aboriginal children in Western Australia). Results: 71% of Aboriginal children were breastfed for three months or more. Accounting for other factors, there was a strong gradient for breastfeeding duration by remoteness, with Aboriginal children living in areas of moderate isolation being 3.2 times more likely to be breastfed for three months or more (p < 0.001) compared to children in metropolitan Perth. Those in areas of extreme isolation were 8.6 times more likely to be breastfed for three months or longer (p < 0.001). Conclusions: Greater residential isolation a protective factor linked to longer breastfeeding duration for Aboriginal children in our West Australian cohort.
breastfeeding duration; Australian Aboriginal children; isolation
The burden of mental health problems among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children is a major public health problem in Australia. While socioeconomic factors are implicated as important determinants of mental health problems in mainstream populations, their bearing on the mental health of Indigenous Australians remains largely uncharted across all age groups.
We examined the relationship between the risk of clinically significant emotional or behavioural difficulties (CSEBD) and a range of socioeconomic measures for 3993 Indigenous children aged 4–17 years in Western Australia, using a representative survey conducted in 2000–02. Analysis was conducted using multivariate logistic regression within a multilevel framework.
Almost one quarter (24%) of Indigenous children were classified as being at high risk of CSEBD. Our findings generally indicate that higher socioeconomic status is associated with a reduced risk of mental health problems in Indigenous children. Housing quality and tenure and neighbourhood-level disadvantage all have a strong direct effect on child mental health. Further, the circumstances of families with Indigenous children (parenting quality, stress, family composition, overcrowding, household mobility, racism and family functioning) emerged as an important explanatory mechanism underpinning the relationship between child mental health and measures of material wellbeing such as carer employment status and family financial circumstances.
Our results provide incremental evidence of a social gradient in the mental health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. Improving the social, economic and psychological conditions of families with Indigenous children has considerable potential to reduce the mental health inequalities within Indigenous populations and, in turn, to close the substantial racial gap in mental health. Interventions that target housing quality, home ownership and neighbourhood-level disadvantage are likely to be particularly beneficial.
Socioeconomic; Social disparities; Social gradient; Aboriginal; Mental health; Indigenous; Inequality; Australia
Early child development may have important consequences for inequalities in health and well-being. This paper explores population level patterns of child development across Australian jurisdictions, considering socioeconomic and demographic characteristics.
Census of child development across Australia.
Setting and participants
Teachers complete a developmental checklist, the Australian Early Development Index (AEDI), for all children in their first year of full-time schooling. Between May and July 2009, the AEDI was collected by 14 628 teachers in primary schools (government and non-government) across Australia, providing information on 261 147 children (approximately 97.5% of the estimated 5-year-old population).
Level of developmental vulnerability in Australian children for five developmental domains: physical well-being, social competence, emotional maturity, language and cognitive skills and communication skills and general knowledge.
The results show demographic and socioeconomic inequalities in child development as well as within and between jurisdiction inequalities. The magnitude of the overall level of inequality in child development and the impact of covariates varies considerably both between and within jurisdiction by sex. For example, the difference in overall developmental vulnerability between the best-performing and worst-performing jurisdiction is 12.5% for males and 7.1% for females. Levels of absolute social inequality within jurisdictions range from 8.2% for females to 12.7% for males.
The different mix of universal and targeted services provided within jurisdictions from pregnancy to age 5 may contribute to inequality across the country. These results illustrate the potential utility of a developmental census to shed light on the impact of differences in universal and targeted services to support child development by school entry.
Social Epidemology; Inequality; Public Health Policy; Child Health and Development; Australia
Statistical time series derived from administrative data sets form key indicators in measuring progress in addressing disadvantage in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations in Australia. However, inconsistencies in the reporting of Indigenous status can cause difficulties in producing reliable indicators. External data sources, such as survey data, provide a means of assessing the consistency of administrative data and may be used to adjust statistics based on administrative data sources.
We used record linkage between a large-scale survey (the Western Australian Aboriginal Child Health Survey), and two administrative data sources (the Western Australia (WA) Register of Births and the WA Midwives’ Notification System) to compare the degree of consistency in determining Indigenous status of children between the two sources. We then used a logistic regression model predicting probability of consistency between the two sources to estimate the probability of each record on the two administrative data sources being identified as being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin in a survey. By summing these probabilities we produced model-adjusted time series of neonatal outcomes for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander births.
Compared to survey data, information based only on the two administrative data sources identified substantially fewer Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander births. However, these births were not randomly distributed. Births of children identified as being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin in the survey only were more likely to be living in urban areas, in less disadvantaged areas, and to have only one parent who identifies as being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin, particularly the father. They were also more likely to have better health and wellbeing outcomes. Applying an adjustment model based on the linked survey data increased the estimated number of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander births in WA by around 25%, however this increase was accompanied by lower overall proportions of low birth weight and low gestational age babies.
Record linkage of survey data to administrative data sets is useful to validate the quality of recording of demographic information in administrative data sources, and such information can be used to adjust for differential identification in administrative data.