The family circumstances and wellbeing of Indigenous and non-Indigenous children

The family circumstances and wellbeing of Indigenous and non-Indigenous children

2 July 2013

Indigenous children continue to experience poorer health and developmental outcomes compared to non-Indigenous children. Understanding what might be contributing to these different outcomes is essential for the development of possible solutions to reduce this “gap”.

Indigenous children continue to experience poorer health and developmental outcomes compared to non-Indigenous children. Understanding what might be contributing to these different outcomes is essential for the development of possible solutions to reduce this “gap”.

This article summarises findings from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC) Annual Statistical Report that compare Indigenous and non-Indigenous children, with the aim of identifying areas of strength and areas in need of support for Indigenous children and their families.

LSAC allows a focus on the circumstances of children living in non-remote areas of Australia, which is particularly important given that the majority of Australian Indigenous children live in these regions.

The study presents analyses of differences in family circumstances between Indigenous and non-Indigenous children. For example, Indigenous children were more often living in single parent families, and tended to be living with a greater number of children than were non-Indigenous children.

As well as living with a greater number of siblings, they were also more likely to be living with half-siblings and children other than siblings compared to non-indigenous children.

Indigenous children were found to be living in families that experienced greater socio economic disadvantage than non-Indigenous children. For example, they more often lived in a family in which both parents, or a single parent, were not employed, and were more likely to have parents with relatively low levels of education.

Indigenous children were also somewhat more likely to be exposed to factors that may affect their wellbeing. There were higher rates of living with someone who smokes, with someone who has or has had a drug or alcohol problem, or with poorer mental health.

The analyses included some examination of the functioning of families, such as looking at the activities children did with adults in their household. Indigenous children were more likely to have been told a story (not from a book) and to have played music, sang songs, danced or engaged in musical activities with an adult in the household.

Indigenous children were also more likely to have been involved with an adult doing everyday activities like caring for pets and cooking than non-Indigenous children.

While Indigenous children, on average, tended to have poorer outcomes, there was considerable diversity within the sample. On a selection of measures, the differences between Indigenous and non-Indigenous children were not statistically significant. For example, Indigenous and non-Indigenous children did not differ in terms of their general self-concept or feelings toward school and learning – which were positive.

Importantly, these analyses found that many Indigenous children are doing well on a range of health, social, emotional and educational outcomes. For example, two thirds of 10-11 year old Indigenous children said they felt fit and well in the last week and the majority of children said they enjoyed being physically active. This research highlighted the need to build on these findings to identify those factors that lead children to do well, such that protective factors can be engaged to enhance the development of Indigenous children.

To access the full paper, see – The family circumstances and wellbeing of Indigenous and non-Indigenous children

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