Authors: Theresa S Betancourt, Ivelina Borisova, Timothy P Williams, Sarah E Meyers-Ohki, Julia E Rubin-Smith, Jeannie Annan, Brandon A Kohrt
Aims and scope: This article reviews the available quantitative research on psychosocial adjustment and mental health among children (age <18 years) associated with armed forces and armed groups (CAAFAG) – commonly referred to as child soldiers.
Methods: PRISMA standards for systematic reviews were used to search PubMed, PsycInfo, JSTOR, and Sociological Abstracts in February 2012 for all articles on former child soldiers and CAAFAG. Twenty-one quantitative studies from 10 countries were analyzed for author, year of publication, journal, objectives, design, selection population, setting, instruments, prevalence estimates, and associations with war experiences. Opinion pieces, editorials, and qualitative studies were deemed beyond the scope of this study. Quality of evidence was rated according to the Systematic Assessment of Quality in Observational Research (SAQOR).
Findings: According to SAQOR criteria, among the available published studies, eight studies were of high quality, four were of moderate quality, and the remaining nine were of low quality. Common limitations were lack of validated mental health measures, unclear methodology including undefined sampling approaches, and failure to report missing data. Only five studies included a comparison group of youth not involved with armed forces/armed groups, and only five studies assessed mental health at more than one point in time. Across studies, a number of risk and protective factors were associated with postconflict psychosocial adjustment and social reintegration in CAAFAG. Abduction, age of conscription, exposure to violence, gender, and community stigma were associated with increased internalizing and externalizing mental health problems. Family acceptance, social support, and educational/economic opportunities were associated with improved psychosocial adjustment.
Conclusions: Research on the social reintegration and psychosocial adjustment of former child soldiers is nascent. A number of gaps in the available literature warrant future study. Recommendations to bolster the evidence base on psychosocial adjustment in former child soldiers and other war-affected youth include more studies comprising longitudinal study designs, and validated cross-cultural instruments for assessing mental health, as well as more integrated community-based approaches to study design and research monitoring.
[button link=”http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1469-7610.2012.02620.x/abstract;jsessionid=11801E761816E28E17EBB5E5F01A7308.d02t02?systemMessage=Wiley+Online+Library+will+be+disrupted+on+23+February+from+10%3A00-12%3A00+BST+%2805%3A00-07%3A00+EDT%29+for+essential+maintenance”] Read More [/button]
Authors: Ruel TD, Boivin MJ, Boal HE, Bangirana P, Charlebois E, Havlir DV, Rosenthal PJ, Dorsey G, Achan J, Akello C, Kamya MR, Wong JK.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection causes neurocognitive or motor function deficits in children with advanced disease, but it is unclear whether children with CD4 cell measures above the World Health Organization (WHO) thresholds for antiretroviral therapy (ART) initiation suffer significant impairment.
The neurocognitive and motor functions of HIV-infected ART-naive Ugandan children aged 6-12 years with CD4 cell counts of >350 cells/μL and CD4 cell percentage of >15% were compared with those of HIV-uninfected children, using the Test of Variables of Attention (TOVA), the Kaufman Assessment Battery for Children, second edition (KABC-2), and the Bruininks-Oseretsky Test of Motor Proficiency, second edition (BOT-2).
Ninety-three HIV-infected children (median CD4 cell count, 655 cells/μL; plasma HIV RNA level, 4.7 log(10) copies/mL) were compared to 106 HIV-uninfected children. HIV-infected children performed worse on TOVA visual reaction times (multivariate analysis of covariance; P = .006); KABC-2 sequential processing (P = .005), simultaneous processing (P = .039), planning/reasoning (P = .023), and global performance (P = .024); and BOT-2 total motor proficiency (P = .003). High plasma HIV RNA level was associated with worse performance in 10 cognitive measures and 3 motor measures. In analysis of only WHO clinical stage 1 or 2 HIV-infected children (n = 68), significant differences between the HIV-infected and HIV-uninfected groups (P < .05) remained for KABC-2 sequential processing, KABC-2 planning/reasoning, and BOT-2 motor proficiency.
Significant motor and cognitive deficits were found in HIV-infected ART-naive Ugandan children with CD4 cell counts of ∼350 cells/μL and percentages of >15%. Study of whether early initiation of ART could prevent or reverse such deficits is needed.
[button link=”http://cid.oxfordjournals.org/content/54/7/1001.long”] Read More[/button]
Author: Bangirana P, Menk J, John CC, Boivin MJ, Hodges JS.
The contribution of different cognitive abilities to academic performance in children surviving cerebral insult can guide the choice of interventions to improve cognitive and academic outcomes. This study’s objective was to identify which cognitive abilities are associated with academic performance in children after malaria with neurological involvement.
62 Ugandan children with a history of malaria with neurological involvement were assessed for cognitive ability (working memory, reasoning, learning, visual spatial skills, attention) and academic performance (reading, spelling, arithmetic) three months after the illness. Linear regressions were fit for each academic score with the five cognitive outcomes entered as predictors. Adjusters in the analysis were age, sex, education, nutrition, and home environment. Exploratory factor analysis (EFA) and structural equation models (SEM) were used to determine the nature of the association between cognition and academic performance. Predictive residual sum of squares was used to determine which combination of cognitive scores was needed to predict academic performance.
In regressions of a single academic score on all five cognitive outcomes and adjusters, only Working Memory was associated with Reading (coefficient estimate = 0.36, 95% confidence interval = 0.10 to 0.63, p<0.01) and Spelling (0.46, 0.13 to 0.78, p<0.01), Visual Spatial Skills was associated with Arithmetic (0.15, 0.03 to 0.26, p<0.05), and Learning was associated with Reading (0.06, 0.00 to 0.11, p<0.05). One latent cognitive factor was identified using EFA. The SEM found a strong association between this latent cognitive ability and each academic performance measure (P<0.0001). Working memory, visual spatial ability and learning were the best predictors of academic performance.
Academic performance is strongly associated with the latent variable labelled “cognitive ability” which captures most of the variation in the individual specific cognitive outcome measures. Working memory, visual spatial skills, and learning together stood out as the best combination to predict academic performance.
[button link=”http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0055653″] Read More[/button]
Authors: Yoshikawa H, Aber JL, Beardslee WR.
Abstract: This article considers the implications for prevention science of recent advances in research on family poverty and children’s mental, emotional, and behavioral health. First, we describe definitions of poverty and the conceptual and empirical challenges to estimating the causal effects of poverty on children’s mental, emotional, and behavioral health. Second, we offer a conceptual framework that incorporates selection processes that affect who becomes poor as well as mechanisms through which poverty appears to influence child and youth mental health. Third, we use this conceptual framework to selectively review the growing literatures on the mechanisms through which family poverty influences the mental, emotional, and behavioral health of children. We illustrate how a better understanding of the mechanisms of effect by which poverty impacts children’s mental, emotional, and behavioral health is valuable in designing effective preventive interventions for those in poverty. Fourth, we describe strategies to directly reduce poverty and the implications of these strategies for prevention. This article is one of three in a special section (see also Biglan, Flay, Embry, & Sandler, 2012; Muñoz, Beardslee, & Leykin, 2012) representing an elaboration on a theme for prevention science developed by the 2009 report of the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine.
[button link=”http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/amp/67/4/272/”]Read More[/button]