Disparity in Wellbeing

Disparities in Wellbeing: A Longitudinal and Life-course Study of Immigrant Children in Norway

Project summary

Many children born of immigrant parents in Norway are overrepresented in official statistics on poverty, social exclusion and crime. They are also more likely to leave school early, have more contacts with the child welfare services, and report more mental health problems. Nevertheless, children of some specific ethnic groups do better on these wellbeing indicators than other ethnic groups, including native Norwegian. For example, Vietnamese children appear to enjoy better mental wellbeing, educational attainment and labour market participation. There are also substantial disparities in well-being within some ethnic groups. There is scant research, however, addressing the underlying causes for such disparities between and within ethnic groups of immigrant children – factors and processes that moderate or mediate such disparities. Wellbeing is shaped by multisystemic processes in individual, social, cultural and ecological contexts. Such systems also shape an individual’s resilience to adapt to significant adversity. Longitudinal studies, which could examine the mechanisms linking wellbeing of immigrant children to such multisystemic processes and resilience from early childhood across the life-course, are scarce. Indeed, most cohort and longitudinal studies systematically exclude immigrant families and children from their samples. Even when such research is available, immigrant children either represent a fraction that is too small from which to draw valid conclusions, or do not contain immigrant-specific information since they were not originally designed for this purpose. This absence of evidence constitutes a major barrier to the development of effective integration and health promoting strategies for the immigrant population in Norway, specifically, and immigrant-receiving societies in general. 

The proposed project aims to address these gaps by providing new knowledge about how and why disparities in wellbeing develop among immigrant children from early childhood to adolescence. By using novel causal modelling techniques, we examine (a) heterogeneity in disparities of wellbeing between and within ethnic groups of immigrant children; (b) how social, cultural and spatial processes, and resilience that emerge in interaction with each other, influence disparities in wellbeing (c) how gender moderates inequalities in the wellbeing of immigrant children.

The project is the first longitudinal study of immigrant children and their parents/caregivers spanning from early childhood to adolescence and which combines both qualitative (interviews, participatory observation, and video/photo- diaries) and quantitative research designs (survey and register data). We use newly developed causal modelling techniques, combining approaches from epidemiology, psychometrics, and econometrics to examine complex dynamic mechanisms influencing wellbeing.

The project includes highly qualified national and international researchers in the fields of public health, psychology, psychiatry, nursing, sociology, and economics, thereby providing an excellent research environment for this interdisciplinary collaboration. A user perspective is established by collaborating with municipalities, and immigrant and religious organizations. 

  • This project has received strategic funding in 2020 (700,000 NOK) from OsloMet for piloting and project development activities.
  • Ethical applications are submitted in 2020/21.
  • OsloMet has provided funding to one PhD fellow for 4 years (2022-26), and additional grant proposals will be submitted to the Norwegian Research Council.