Monday, April 4, 2016

Exposure to Violence & Psychological Well-Being Over Time in Children Affected by HIV/AIDS in South Africa & Malawi

Many of the risk factors for violence against children are particularly prevalent in families and communities affected by HIV/AIDS. Yet, in sub-Saharan Africa, where HIV rates are high, efforts to prevent or address violence against children and its long-lasting effects are hampered by a lack of evidence. 

We assessed the relationship between violence exposure and mental health among HIV-affected children attending community-based organisations in South Africa (n = 834) and Malawi (n = 155, total sample n = 989) at baseline and 12-15-month follow-up. Exposure to violence in the home and in the community was high. HIV-negative children who lived with an HIV-positive person experienced most violence overall, followed by HIV-positive children. Children unaffected by HIV experienced least violence (all p < .05). 

Interpersonal violence in the home predicted child depression, trauma symptoms, lower self-esteem, and internalising and externalising behavioural problems, while exposure to community violence predicted trauma symptoms and behavioural problems. Harsh physical discipline predicted lower self-esteem and behavioural problems for children. Exposure to home and community violence predicted risk behaviour. Over time, there was a decrease in depressed mood and problem behaviours, and an increase in self-esteem for children experiencing different types of violence at baseline. This may have been due to ongoing participation in the community-based programme. 

These data highlight the burden of violence in these communities and possibilities for programmes to include violence prevention to improve psychosocial well-being in HIV-affected children.

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  • 1 Department of Psychology , Stellenbosch University , Stellenbosch , South Africa.
  • 2 Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health , University of Cape Town , Cape Town , South Africa.
  • 3 Department of Infection and Population Health , University College London , London , UK.
  •  2016 Mar;28 Suppl 1:16-25. doi: 10.1080/09540121.2016.1146219.

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