Divorce has been linked to higher rates of mental illness among children from Caucasian families.
A team of researchers from University College London and the nearby Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families polled 30,000 children between the ages of 11 and 14, in the largest survey of children’s mental health conducted to date.
The participants were quizzed about their emotions, in particular whether they had ever felt sad, tearful or anxious. Their responses were allocated scores and those above a certain level were judged to have diagnosable mental health difficulties where professional intervention by a counsellor or psychiatrist would be appropriate.
The team found distinct differences between children from different backgrounds. No less than one in five, or 20 per cent, of the white children scored above the emotional threshold for professional intervention. By contrast only 14 per cent of children from other ethnic backgrounds did.
Lead researcher Dr Jess Deighton is a professor of child mental health and wellbeing at University College London. She suggested the difference could be down to higher rates of divorce and family breakdown in white families. By contrast, she claimed, the children of families from other ethnic backgrounds may benefit from “better family cohesion or having a more diverse group of friends, bringing more social capital”.
In addition, children from white families may be more used to talking about their emotions, she continued, encouraging survey participants to be more forthright about their feelings.
The researchers also found a stark difference between boys and girls: 25 per cent of the latter crossed the threshold but only 11 per cent of the boys.