Tag: depression

Title: Depression among carers of AIDS-orphaned and other-orphaned children in Umlazi Township, South Africa

Authors: Kuo Caroline, Operario Don, Cluver Lucie

Date:  2012

Abstract: South Africa faces the challenge of supporting the well-being of adults caring for growing numbers of AIDS-orphaned children. These adults play a critical role in responses to the epidemic, but little information exists in regard to their mental health needs. This paper reports on findings from n=1599 adults, recruited through representative household sampling, who serve as primary carers for children in Umlazi Township, an HIV-endemic community. Overall, 22% of participants were carers of AIDS-orphaned children, 11% were carers of other-orphaned children and 67% were carers of non-orphaned children. Prevalence of depression was 30.3%. Orphan carers, regardless of whether they cared for AIDS-orphaned or other-orphaned children, were significantly more likely than carers of non-orphaned children to meet the clinical threshold for depression (35.2% vs. 27.9%, p < 0.01). In multivariate logistic regressions, food insecurity and being a female carer were identified as additional risk factors for greater depression. In contrast, households with access to running water and households dependent on salaries as the main source of income were identified as protective factors for disparities in depression. Mental health interventions are urgently needed to address an increased risk for depression among all orphan carers, not just those caring for AIDS-orphaned children. 2012 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.

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Title: Psychological distress amongst AIDS-orphaned children in urban South Africa

Authors: Lucie Cluver, Frances Gardner, Don Operario

Date: 2007

Abstract: BACKGROUND: South Africa is predicted to have 2.3 million children orphaned by Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) by 2020 (Actuarial Society of South Africa, 2005). There is little knowledge about impacts of AIDS-related bereavement on children, to aid planning of services. This study aimed to investigate psychological consequences of AIDS orphanhood in urban township areas of Cape Town, South Africa, compared to control groups of children and adolescents orphaned by other causes, and non-orphans. METHOD: One thousand and twenty-five children and adolescents (aged 10-19) were interviewed using socio-demographic questionnaires and standardised scales for assessing depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, peer problems, delinquency and conduct problems. RESULTS: Controlling for socio-demographic factors such as age, gender, formal/informal dwelling and age at orphanhood, children orphaned by AIDS were more likely to report symptoms of depression, peer relationship problems, post-traumatic stress, delinquency and conduct problems than both children orphaned by other causes and non-orphaned children. Anxiety showed no differences. AIDS-orphaned children were more likely to report suicidal ideation. Compared to Western norms, AIDS-orphaned children showed higher levels of internalizing problems and delinquency, but lower levels of conduct problems. CONCLUSIONS: Children orphaned by AIDS may be a particularly vulnerable group in terms of emotional and, to a lesser extent, behavioural problems. Intervention programs are necessary to ameliorate the psychological sequelae of losing a parent to AIDS.

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Title: AIDS-Orphanhood and Caregiver HIV/AIDS Sickness Status: Effects on Psychological Symptoms in South African Youth

Authors: Lucie Cluver, Mark Orkin, Mark E Boyes, Frances Gardner, Joy Nikelo

Date: Feb, 7, 2012



Research has established that AIDS-orphaned youth are at high risk of internalizing psychological distress. However, little is known about youth living with caregivers who are unwell with AIDS or youth simultaneously affected by AIDS-orphanhood and caregiver AIDS sickness.


1025 South African youth were interviewed in 2005 and followed up in 2009 (71% retention). Participants completed standardized measures of anxiety, depression, and posttraumatic stress. Comparison groups were youth who were AIDS-orphaned, other-orphaned, and nonorphaned, and those whose caregivers were sick with AIDS, sick with another disease, or healthy.


Longitudinal analyses showed that both AIDS-orphanhood and caregiver AIDS sickness predicted increased depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress symptoms over a 4-year period, independently of sociodemographic cofactors and of each other. Caregiver sickness or death by non-AIDS causes, and having a healthy or living caregiver, did not predict youth symptomatology. Youths simultaneously affected by caregiver AIDS sickness and AIDS-orphanhood showed cumulative negative effects.


Findings suggest that policy and interventions, currently focused on orphanhood, should include youth whose caregivers are unwell with AIDS.

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Title: Persisting mental health problems among AIDS-orphaned children in South Africa

Authors: Lucie Cluver, Mark Orkin, Frances Gardner, Mark E Boyes

Date: 2011



By 2008, 12 million children in sub-Saharan Africa were orphaned by AIDS. Cross-sectional studies show psychological problems for AIDS-orphaned children, but until now no longitudinal study has explored enduring psychological effects of AIDS-orphanhood in low-income countries.


A 4-year longitudinal follow-up of AIDS-orphaned children with control groups of other-orphans and non-orphans. 1021 children (M = 13.4 years, 50% female, 98% isiXhosa-speaking) were interviewed in 2005 and followed up in 2009 with 71% retention (49% female, M = 16.9 years), in poor urban South African settlements. Children were interviewed using sociodemographic questionnaires and well-validated standardised scales for assessing depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress. Data were analysed using mixed-design ANOVA and backward-stepping regression.


AIDS-orphaned children showed higher depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) scores in both 2005 and 2009 when compared with other-orphans and non-orphans. Backward-stepping regression, controlling for baseline mental health, and sociodemographic cofactors such as age, gender, and type of bereavement, revealed that being AIDS-orphaned in 2005 was associated with depression, anxiety, and PTSD scores in 2009. This was not the case for other-orphaned or non-orphaned children. Age interacted with orphan status, such that there was a steep rise in psychological distress in the AIDS-orphaned group, but no rise with age amongst other-orphans and non-orphans.


Negative mental health outcomes amongst AIDS-orphaned children are maintained and worsen over a 4-year period. It is important that psychosocial support programmes are sustained, and focus on youth as well as young children.



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Study Title: Trauma-Focused CBT: Potential Mechanisms that inhibit and facilitate change

Context: Child maltreatment and interpersonal adversity put children at increased risk for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and suicide, substance abuse, and a host of negative mental health outcomes. Recent evidence documents that childhood adversity can have pernicious neurobiological and psychosocial effects that extend risk into adulthood. Trauma- Focused Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) has been demonstrated in numerous randomized clinical trials to be an efficacious treatment for maltreated and traumatized children. Early intervention with TF-CBT has the potential to alter the trajectory of risk associated with childhood adversity.

Study Aims: The overall goals of the proposed research are to identify potential mechanisms of change, inhibitors of change, and predictors of early dropout in this treatment. The proposed research integrates a sophisticated analysis of the process of change into an ongoing effectiveness trial of TF-CBT that has been transported to community mental health facilities throughout the state of Delaware.

Methods: Sessions from 75 children who received TF- CBT will be coded with an observational coding system designed to capture theoretically important therapeutic processes. TF-CBT is hypothesized to be associated with a curvilinear pattern of in-session affective arousal and cognitive/emotional processing of the trauma, with peak levels occurring when the child develops a trauma narrative in the exposure phase of therapy. A transient increase in affective arousal is thought to reflect activation of the trauma memories and to facilitate processing. More processing during this narrative phase is hypothesized to be the primary predictor of improvement in PTSD symptoms and problematic child behaviors. Therapist support and caregiver involvement in treatment are expected to help prepare the child for change by decreasing avoidance, a primary inhibitor of later arousal and processing. Caregiver avoidance and processing when exposed to the child’s narrative are also expected to predict child outcomes.

Implications: The proposed research has the potential to reveal key processes that can be mobilized to increase the potency of TF-CBT, reduce rates of dropout, and enhance therapist training as dissemination efforts are undertaken.

Principal Investigator: Adele Hayes (University of Delaware)

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Title: Depressive symptoms in youth heads of household in Rwanda – Correlates and implications for intervention

Authors: Neil Boris, Lisanne Brown, Tonya Thurman, Janet Rice, Leslie Snider, Joseph Ntaganira, Laetitia Nyirazinyoye

Abstract: Objective: To examine the level of depressive symptoms and their predictors in youth from one region of Rwanda who function as heads of household (ie, those responsible for caring for other children) and care for younger orphans. Design: Cross-sectional survey Setting: Four adjoining districts in Gigonkoro, an impoverished rural province in southwestern Rwanda. Participants: Trained interviewers met with the eldest member of each household (n=539) in which a youth 24 years old or younger was caring for 1 child or more. Main Exposure: Serving as a youth head of household. Main Outcome Measures: Rates and severity of depressive symptoms using the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression scale; measures of grief, adult support, social marginalization, and sociodemographic factors using scales developed for this study. Results: Of the 539 youth heads of household, 77% were subsistence farmers and only 7% had attended school for 6 years or more. Almost half (44%) reported eating only 1 meal a day in the last week, and 80% rated their health as fair or poor. The mean score on the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression scale was 24.4, exceeding the most conservative published cutoff score for adolescents. Multivariate analysis revealed that reports of depressive symptoms that exceeded the clinical cutoff were associated with having 3 basic household assets or fewer, such as a mattress and a spare set of clothes (odds ratio [OR], 1.69; 95% confidence inter-vat [CI], 1.06-2.70), eating less than 1 meal per day (OR, 1.68; 95% CI, 1.092.60), reporting fair health (OR, 1.32; 95% CI, 0.762.29) or poor health (OR, 2.33; 95% CI, 1.17-4.64), endorsing high levels of grief (OR, 2.67; 95% CI, 1.734.13), having at least 1 parent die in the genocide as opposed to all other causes of parental death (OR, 1.83; 95% CI, 1.10-3.04), and not having a close friend (OR, 1.91; 95% CI, 1.1.7-3.1.2). There was an interaction between marginalization from the community and alcohol use; youth who were highly marginalized and did not drink alcohol were more than 3 times more likely to report symptoms of depression (OR, 3.07-1 95% CI, 1.73-5.42). When models were constructed by grouping theoretically related variables into blocks and controlling for other blocks, the emotional status block of variables (grief and marginalization) accounted for the most variance in depressive symptoms. Conclusions: Orphaned youth who head households in rural Rwanda face many challenges and report high rates of depressive symptoms. Interventions designed to go beyond improving food security and increasing household assets may be needed to reduce social isolation of youth heads of household. The effect of head-of-household depressive symptoms on other children living in youth-headed households is unknown.

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Title: Psychological Distress in Orphan, Vulnerable Children and Non-Vulnerable Children in High Prevalence HIV/AIDS Communities

Authors: Killian, B. and K. Durrheim.

Date: 2008

Abstract: The degree of psychological distress and access social support is investigated in children (n = 741) living in nine high prevalence HIV/AIDS communities. They comprised (1) vulnerable, maternally-orphaned (n = 319); (ii) vulnerable and not orphaned (n = 276); and (iii) typically developing (n = 146). The following psychometric tests were administered: The Trauma Symptom Checklist for Children (Townsend, 2002); the Reynolds Depression Scale for Children (Reynolds, 1989); and the Social Support Scale (Beale Spencer, Cole, Jones & Phillips Swanson, 1997). Primary caregivers completed the Conners’ Parent Rating Scale (Conners, Parker, Sitarenios, & Epstein, 1998) and an Adversity Index (Killian, 2004a) to establish the vulnerability status of each child. The data were analysed to distinguish the groups from each other regarding profiles of distress. The findings suggest that vulnerable children, be they orphaned or not, manifest similar degrees of emotional distress and perceived themselves as unable to access social support. Interventions should address the needs of both orphans and other vulnerable children, without prioritising the needs of orphans over other vulnerable children.

Citation: Killian, B. and K. Durrheim (2008). “Psychological Distress in Orphan, Vulnerable Children and Non-Vulnerable Children in High Prevalence HIV/AIDS Communities.” Journal of Psychology in Africa 18(3): 421-429.