Maternal immigrant status and signs of neurodevelopmental problems in early childhood: The French representative ELFE birth cohort

Heiko Schmengler, Fabienne El-Khoury Lesueur, Anna Yermachenko, Marion Taine, David Cohen, Hugo Peyre, Catherine Saint-Georges, Xavier Thierry, Maria Melchior

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations

Abstract

A growing body of evidence suggests that children of immigrants may have increased risks of neurodevelopmental disorders. However, evidence based on parent report and on very young children is lacking. We therefore investigated the association between maternal immigrant status and early signs of neurodevelopmental problems in a population-based sample of 2-year-old children using standardized parent-report instruments. We used data from the French representative Étude Longitudinale Française depuis l'Enfance birth cohort, initiated in 2011. The study sample included 9,900 children of nonimmigrant French, 1,403 children of second, and 1,171 children of first generation immigrant women followed-up to age 2 years. Neurodevelopment was assessed using the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT) and an adaptation of the MacArthur-Bates Communicative Development Inventories (MB-CDI). In fully adjusted linear regression models, maternal immigrant status was associated with M-CHAT scores, with stronger associations in children of first (β-coefficient: 0.19; 95% CI 0.08–0.29) than second generation immigrants (0.09; 0.01–0.17). This association was especially strong among children of first generation immigrant mothers native of North Africa (vs. nonimmigrant French: 0.33; 0.16–0.49) and French-speaking Sub-Saharan Africa (0.26; 0.07–0.45). MB-CDI scores were lowest among children of first generation immigrant mothers, particularly from mostly non-francophone regions. Children of first generation immigrant mothers were most likely to have simultaneously low MB-CDI and high M-CHAT scores. Our findings suggest that maternal immigrant status is associated with early signs of neurodevelopmental difficulties, with strong variations according to maternal region of origin. Further research is necessary to test whether these associations persist and to determine the underlying mechanisms. Autism Res 2019, 12: 1845–1859.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1845-1859
Number of pages15
JournalAutism Research
Volume12
Issue number12
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2019
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • autism spectrum disorder
  • child development
  • developmental disabilities
  • immigrants
  • language

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