September 27, 2012
Parenting Behavior, Health, and Cognitive Development among Children in Black Immigrant Families: Comparing the United States and the United Kingdom
Racial disparities in child development in the United States are striking, with a particularly pronounced disadvantage among Black children. As an increasingly significant share of Black children have immigrant parents, it is important to examine whether their development parallels that of their Black peers in native-born families or is more similar to that of children in other immigrant families.
In Parenting Behavior, Health, and Cognitive Development among Children in Black Immigrant Families: Comparing the United States and the United Kingdom, Brown University sociologist Margot Jackson focuses on the development of young children of Black immigrants (from birth to age 5), comparing their outcomes to children of immigrants and those with US-born parents from a variety of racial/ethnic backgrounds.
The report also compares children in the United States to those in the United Kingdom, where there is a large Black immigrant population but a notably different policy context of reception. Jackson uses data from two national samples that include Black African and Caribbean mothers in the United States and the United Kingdom to examine parenting behaviors that might affect children’s birth outcomes, development during the preschool years, and school readiness at entry to kindergarten.
The largely similar direction and magnitude of parenting and development patterns among Black children in immigrant families across the two countries is notable despite numerous differences in policies related to immigration, health care, governmental support for new parents, and social services that might predict greater cross-country variation. Using the US Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Survey and the UK Millennium Cohort, Jackson finds evidence in both countries of favorable breastfeeding patterns among Black immigrant mothers and high usage of early prenatal care among all mothers. Black immigrant mothers’ healthy prenatal behavior is paralleled by the healthy birth weight of their children and, in the United Kingdom, by these children’s lower asthma risk at age 5. However, Black children regardless of nativity have weaker verbal development in both countries, a disadvantage that is particularly pronounced among children whose mothers are immigrants in the United Kingdom.
Her findings offer a first step toward understanding the outcomes experienced by Black immigrant families, suggesting that the development of children in these families exhibits both favorable and disadvantaged patterns, as do these children’s social integration in their host societies.
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