This study investigated the links between aspects of cultural life and response to ethnic monitoring questions, and compared parental and adolescents' responses. Questionnaires were given to consecutive attenders at a child and adolescent psychiatry department situated in central London. Forty-seven parents participated, and 24 adolescents (aged 12–16 years) also completed questionnaires. Parents came from many parts of the world and their offspring were mostly born in the UK, but had varied cultural life with respect to language, peer group and diet. Just over half of the offspring were regarded as ‘White British’ by parents but the second largest group was that marked ‘other’, who all had mixed identity. There were differences in how parents described adolescents, especially in relation to peer culture. Since ethnic categories have limitations the data should be used carefully, and for many aspects of health planning and delivery other cultural variables would be useful. Consideration should be given to the need for specifying whether adolescents or their parents should respond to ethnic monitoring questions.
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