Ecological and individual-level perspectives on children's at-home behaviour

by LeClair, James André

Abstract (Summary)
This study exarnined the prevalence, spatial distribution, and correlates of problem behaviour arnongst the Grades K-4 cohon in the rnost highly urbanised portion of the Capital Regional District, British Columbia. Data for the study were collected during the penod October through December, 1997. The fint stage of data collection involved the distribution of a survey package, consisting of a socio-demographic and medicd history questionnaire and the Walker Problem Behaviour Identification Checklist. to the parents of 3 121 children in the 15 participating schoois. A total of 571 usrful responses were obtained, yielding a useful response rate of 18.3%. In the second stage of data collection, hair samples were obtained from 258 children. Hair elemental analysis or the samples allowed for the determination of individual children's exposures to several toxic metals as well as sysremic and/or dirtary Ievels of various nutritive elements. Results of the behavioural assessrnent revealed that 23.8% of the participating children received a score in the 'problem behaviour' range for the Total Walker scale, a mesure of overall behavioural functioning. Rates of problem behaviour for the subscales varied considerably: Acting-Out (33.5%); Withdrawal(5.3%); Distractibility (12.4%); Disturbed Peer Relations (3 1.2%); Imrnaturity (26.4%). Substantial variations in rates of problem behaviour were revealed at the census tract level, with each scaie exhibiting a concentration of problem behaviour in the central portion of the study area. The most pronounced clustering of problem behaviour was ... 111 apparent for the Total and Withdrawal scales, while the Disturbed Peer Relations scale results exhibited the most dispersed pattern. Ecological correlation analyses revealed that measures of socio-economic disadvantage, high mobility, and farnily dysfûnction were positively correlated with census tract rates of problem behaviour, while measures of social and economic advantage appeared to have a 'protective' effect. The degree to which the urban ecology of the study area was related to prevalence rates was dependent upon the nature of the behaviour being considered, with behaviours related to withdrawal and immaturity showing the least association with social factors. Contextual analyses suggested that. in some cases. the quality of the urban environment had an independent association with problem behaviour. beyond the effects of individual social status. Amongst the medical history-related factors considered, having a food allergy was a characteristic significantly more prevalent amongst children with problem behaviour on the Total and Distractibility scales, while children born following a 'prolonged labour' were more likely to receive a score above the problem behaviour threshold for the Immaturity scale. Social status and farnily characteristics appeûr to be of particular significance as potentiai 'risk' and ' protective' factors. Children with problem behaviours were more frequently exposed to variables describing economic disadvantage, stresshl life circurnstances, and disruptive events; and were more likely to live in a single parent, rented, andor subsidised home than other children. The factors considered were of least importance for behaviour characterised by 'acting-out ' and ' immaturity. '
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Source Type:Master's Thesis



Date of Publication:01/01/2000

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