Tag: emotional well being

Title: Evaluation of the orphans reunification project in Eritrea

Authors: E Morah, S Mebrathu, K Sebhatu

Date: 1998


The evidence clearly shows that the status of assisted orphans compares favorably with that of non-orphans, thus indicating that the psychosocial integration between the host families and the orphans has been successful. Although orphan boys were indicated to be slightly better off, the gender differences were not dramatic. Substantial evidence also suggests that the project has built capacities of the relevant government ministry on a number of key areas’  research skills and appreciation of the importance of solid operational research before social interventions, participatory planning, monitoring and management tools, community mobilization and advocacy for child protection. Finally, the reunification project is found to be significantly more cost-effective, psychosocially acceptable and sustainable than the alternative strategy of keeping the children in orphanages.

Title: More than the loss of a parent: Potentially traumatic events among orphaned and abandoned children

Authors: Kathryn Whetten, Jan Ostermann, Rachel Whetten, Karen O’Donnell, Nathan Thielman, and The Positive Outcomes for Orphans Research Team

Date: March 25, 2011

Abstract: This study examines rates of potentially traumatic events and associated anxiety and emotional/behavioral difficulties among 1,258 orphaned and abandoned children in 5 low- and middle-income countries. The study quantifies the types of events the children experienced and demonstrates that anxiety and emotional/behavioral difficulties increase with additional exposure. As policies for orphaned and abandoned children are being implemented, this study helps policy makers and care providers recognize that (a) children and caregivers are willing to report experiences of potentially traumatic events, (b) those who report such events are at higher risk for experiencing additional events, (c) resulting symptomatology indicates a need for appropriate mental health services, and (d) boys are as vulnerable as girls, indicating an equal need for protection.

[button link=”http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jts.20625/abstract” color=”green” newwindow=”yes”] View Online[/button]

Title: A Comparison of the Wellbeing of Orphans and Abandoned Children Ages 6–12 in Institutional and Community-Based Care Settings in 5 Less Wealthy Nations

Authors: Kathryn Whetten, Jan Ostermann, Rachel Whetten, Brian Pence, Karen O’Donnell, Lynne Messer, Nathan Thielman, The Positive Outcomes for Orphans (POFO) Research Team

Date: 2009



Leaders are struggling to care for the estimated 143,000,000 orphans and millions more abandoned children worldwide. Global policy makers are advocating that institution-living orphans and abandoned children (OAC) be moved as quickly as possible to a residential family setting and that institutional care be used as a last resort. This analysis tests the hypothesis that institutional care for OAC aged 6–12 is associated with worse health and wellbeing than community residential care using conservative two-tail tests.


The Positive Outcomes for Orphans (POFO) study employed two-stage random sampling survey methodology in 6 sites across 5 countries to identify 1,357 institution-living and 1,480 community-living OAC ages 6–12, 658 of whom were double-orphans or abandoned by both biological parents. Survey analytic techniques were used to compare cognitive functioning, emotion, behavior, physical health, and growth. Linear mixed-effects models were used to estimate the proportion of variability in child outcomes attributable to the study site, care setting, and child levels and institutional versus community care settings. Conservative analyses limited the community living children to double-orphans or abandoned children.

Principal Findings

Health, emotional and cognitive functioning, and physical growth were no worse for institution-living than community-living OAC, and generally better than for community-living OAC cared for by persons other than a biological parent. Differences between study sites explained 2–23% of the total variability in child outcomes, while differences between care settings within sites explained 8–21%. Differences among children within care settings explained 64–87%. After adjusting for sites, age, and gender, institution vs. community-living explained only 0.3–7% of the variability in child outcomes.


This study does not support the hypothesis that institutional care is systematically associated with poorer wellbeing than community care for OAC aged 6–12 in those countries facing the greatest OAC burden. Much greater variability among children within care settings was observed than among care settings type. Methodologically rigorous studies must be conducted in those countries facing the new OAC epidemic in order to understand which characteristics of care promote child wellbeing. Such characteristics may transcend the structural definitions of institutions or family homes.

[button link=”http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0008169″ color=”green” newwindow=”yes”] View Online[/button]

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.

[button link=”http://www.mendeley.com/research/psychological-distress-amongst-aidsorphaned-children-urban-south-africa/” color=”green” newwindow=”yes”] VIew Online[/button]

Title: Posttraumatic stress in AIDS-orphaned children exposed to high levels of trauma: the protective role of perceived social support

Authors: Lucie Cluver, Dylan S Fincham, Soroya Seedat

Date: 2009

Abstract: Poor urban children in South Africa are exposed to multiple community traumas, but AIDS-orphaned children are at particular risk for posttraumatic stress. This study examined the hypothesis that social support may moderate the relationship between trauma exposure and posttraumatic stress for this group. Four hundred twenty-five AIDS-orphaned children were interviewed using standardized measures of psychopathology. Compared to participants with low perceived social support, those with high perceived social support demonstrated significantly lower levels of PTSD symptoms after both low and high levels of trauma exposure. This suggests that strong perception of social support from carers, school staff, and friends may lessen deleterious effects of exposure to trauma, and could be a focus of intervention efforts to improve psychological outcomes for AIDS-orphaned children.

[button link=”http://www.mendeley.com/research/posttraumatic-stress-in-aidsorphaned-children-exposed-to-high-levels-of-trauma-the-protective-role-of-perceived-social-support/” color=”green” newwindow=”yes”] View Online[/button]

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.



[button link=”http://www.mendeley.com/research/persisting-mental-health-problems-among-aidsorphaned-children-south-africa/” color=”green” newwindow=”yes”] View Online[/button]


Title: Effects of stigma on the mental health of adolescents orphaned by AIDS

Authors: Lucie Cluver, Frances Gardner, Don Operario

Date: 2008



By 2010, an estimated 18.4 million children in Sub-Saharan Africa will be orphaned by AIDS. Research in South Africa shows that AIDS orphanhood is independently associated with heightened levels of psychological problems. This study is the first to explore the mediating effects of stigma and other factors operating on a community level, on associations between AIDS orphanhood and mental health. We assessed the associations of four risk factors that can potentially be addressed at a community level (bullying, stigma, community violence, and lack of positive activities) with psychological problems and orphanhood status.


One thousand twenty-five participants aged 10-19 were recruited from deprived urban settlements in South Africa. The sample included adolescents orphaned by AIDS (n = 425), adolescents orphaned by non-AIDS causes (n = 241), and nonorphaned adolescents (n = 278). Participants were interviewed using standardized psychological measures of depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress, peer problems, delinquency, and conduct problems. Information on risk factors and demographic characteristics were also assessed.


AIDS-orphaned adolescents reported higher levels of stigma and fewer positive activities than other groups. There were no reported differences on bullying or community violence. All community-level risk factors were associated with poorer psychological outcomes. Multivariate analyses controlling for age and gender showed that experience of stigma significantly mediated associations between AIDS orphanhood and poor psychological outcomes.


Reduction of AIDS-related stigma could potentially reduce adverse psychological outcomes among AIDS-orphaned adolescents.

[button link=”http://www.mendeley.com/research/effects-stigma-mental-health-adolescents-orphaned-aids/” color=”green” newwindow=”yes”] View Online[/button]

Study Title: Improving Outcomes for Youth in Foster Care: Trauma-Focused CBT

Context: Children and adolescents in foster care have significant, and often unmet, mental health needs (Leslie, Hurlburt, Landsverk, & Barth, 2004). For school-aged youth, the most common problems are disruptive behavior disorders and sequelae of trauma exposure (e.g., Posttraumatic Stress Disorder [PTSD], Depression) (Landsverk, Burns, & Stambaugh, in press). Such mental health problems, in turn, are linked to a range of negative outcomes (e.g., functioning, placement stability/permanency) (James, Landsverk, & Slymen, 2004; Landsverk, Davis, Granger, Newton, & Johnson, 1996). There is tremendous interest in the field to increase use of evidence-based treatments that target specific mental health problems and needs of youth in foster care. Trauma-focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) potentially provides an excellent fit. Evidence from randomized trials supports the efficacy of TF-CBT in treating PTSD, behavior problems, and other trauma sequelae (Cohen, Deblinger, Mannarino, & Steer, 2004). Although TF-CBT holds promise for youth in foster care, there are likely complexities in providing it to such youth. Findings from dismantling research indicate that caregiver involvement is crucial for maximizing treatment effects of TF-CBT (Deblinger, Lippman, & Steer, 1996). However, available evidence and our clinical experience suggest that foster parents are infrequently engaged in a proactive and ongoing manner in their foster children’s mental health treatment.

Study Aims: Therefore the primary aim of the proposed R34 is to conduct a pilot study of TF-CBT with children and adolescents in foster care, with a targeted focus on engaging foster parents in treatment. The proposed project brings together two complementary interventions-evidence-based engagement strategies (McKay, Stoewe, McCadam, & Gonzales, 1998) and TF-CBT (Cohen, Deblinger & Mannarino, 2006; Deblinger & Heflin, 1996)-in an attempt to improve treatment and outcomes for youth in foster care.

Methods: The project includes two phases: Phase 1: (a) preliminary feasibility study (N = 10) of the evidence-based engagement strategies and TF-CBT; and (b) refinement and development of a manualized engagement intervention based on feedback from foster parents and other key informants. Phase 2: pilot study (N=80) of the refined engagement strategies and TF-CBT (ECBT) compared to ‘usual practice’ TF-CBT (i.e., no specialized engagement) to assess implementation of the combined intervention and provide preliminary data on critical outcomes (e.g., PTS symptoms, behavioral problems, placement stability). Findings will be used to inform a large-scale randomized trial (i.e., R- 01) on effectiveness of ECBT to improve outcomes for youth in foster care with mental health problems. Youth in foster care have very high rates of mental health problems (Leslie, Hurlburt, Landsverk, & Barth, 2004). These include externalizing (e.g., conduct disorder, ADHD, oppositional defiant disorder) as well as internalizing (e.g., anxiety, depression, PTSD) problems. Recent research on epidemiology and treatment has suggested that this combination of symptoms is often related to youth in foster care’s extensive histories of exposure to trauma (Simms, Dubowitz, & Szilagyi, 2000) Therefore, effective treatment of the symptoms requires explicit evidence-based treatment that addresses both the underlying sequelae of trauma and the immediate behavioral manifestations. Trauma-focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) is an evidence- based treatment that appears promising, with specific modifications, for this group of high-risk youth (Deblinger, Lippman, & Steer, 1996).

Implications: The proposed research builds from and combines existing evidence- based strategies (Cohen, Deblinger, Mannarino, & Steer, 2004; McKay, Stoewe, McDadam, & Gonzales, 1998) to more effectively treat some of the nation’s most at-risk and vulnerable youth. Findings from this research will be used to develop and disseminate more effective treatments for youth with mental health problems in the foster care system. Such findings should help improve treatment, services, and outcomes within the entire system of care that serves youth with mental health problems (e.g., specialty mental health providers, child welfare and child protective services, juvenile justice).

Principal Investigator: Shannon Dorsey (University of Washington)

[button link=”http://projectreporter.nih.gov/project_info_description.cfm?aid=7879273&icde=11523140″ color=”green” newwindow=”yes”] View Online[/button]

Study Title: Enhancing Ugandan HIV-Affected child development with caregiver training

Context: Children up to the age of 5 years affected by HIV are the most vulnerable subgroup of HIV populations globally, especially in low-resource areas. This is because of the strategic, volatile, and vulnerable nature of this highly sensitive period of child development. Mediational intervention for sensitizing caregivers (MISC) has a structured training program to enable caregivers to improve their children’s cognitive and social development during everyday casual interactions in the home.In our preliminary NIMH R34 findings, Ugandan HIV children of caregivers receiving MISC training biweekly for a year showed significantly greater gains on the Mullen Early Learning Scales Composite of g fluid intelligence, when compared to children whose caregivers received a standard health/nutrition education intervention (treatment as usual or TAU). The MISC caregivers were also significantly less depressed, and their child mortality that year was significantly lower.

Study Aims:  Study Aim 1 will evaluate if MISC significantly enhances child outcomes when compared to controls for both HIV-positive and orphan children when assessed from baseline to 6, 12, and 18 months. Study Aim 2 will evaluate if MISC significantly enhances caregiver EWB and daily functioning outcomes. To better understand the mechanisms of MISC-enhanced child development, a Secondary Aim is to evaluate the mediating effect of improved caregiver EWB outcomes on corresponding child development gains, and the modifying effects of caregiver HIV illness and functioning on child outcomes.

Methods: One hundred Ugandan HIV-positive preschool and 200 HIV orphan caregiver/child dyads will be enlisted from Kayunga and Pallisa Districts. These dyads will be randomly assigned by village clusters to either biweekly MISC or health/nutrition education TAU intervention for one year. Child Outcomes are the child development gains on the Mullen, the Early Childhood Vigilance Test (ECVT) of attention, and the Color- Object Association Test (COAT) of memory, the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Functioning – Preschool (BRIEF-P), and the caregiver administered version of the Achenbach CBCL. Caregiver Outcomes include an array of emotional wellbeing (EWB) and daily functioning measures validated during the initial qualitative study phase.

Implications: The Overall Impact comes from establishing the feasibility, acceptability, and effectiveness of MISC for HIV orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) and their caregivers in low resource settings; the sustainability of MISC in low resource settings since it is not dependent on published materials or outside resources; the complementary dual impact of significant psychotherapeutic benefit for the caregiver, especially mothers struggling with HIV disease. MISC will also reduce HIV child mortality because in our initial R34 findings, MISC heightened maternal bonding, sensitivity to serious illness, and the prompter seeking of medical care. It also can improve treatment adherence. Finally, our evidence-based MISC caregiver training interventions can be readily implemented globally as a sustainable way to augment OVC cognitive, psychosocial, and medical wellbeing.

Public Health Relevance: Early childhood (up to age 5 yrs) is a period of dramatic change in the cognitive, emotional, social, and behavioral domains; children continuously progress by observing and interacting with the world around them. In the face of economic instability and nutritional, medical and educational deprivation, HIV-affected very young children are the most vulnerable HIV subgroup globally because their families are often the most vulnerable, with little margin for sustaining a favorable developmental milieu for the child. Through strategic caregiver interventions during this sensitive period of child neurodevelopment, our study findings have the potential for positively re-directing the developmental trajectories of tens of millions of HIV-affected children globally.

Principal Investigator: Michael J. Boivin (Michigan State University)

[button link=”http://projectreporter.nih.gov/project_info_description.cfm?aid=8208859&icde=11423324″ color=”green” newwindow=”yes”] View Online[/button]

Study Title: Cognitive and psychosocial benefit of caregiver training for Ugandan HIV children

Context: A decade after the end of apartheid, the well-being of South African children is still in a precarious state. Nearly 70% of the nation’s Black African children live in households with incomes less than $2000 per year. The HIV/AIDS prevalence rate for pregnant women attending public antenatal services is over 30%. And, by 2010, 19% of South African children will have experienced the death of one or both parents, half due to AIDS.

Study Aims: In response to this crisis, the overarching objective of the proposed project is to conduct a short-term, longitudinal, multi-level study of 6000 7- to 10-year-olds and their parents/parent surrogates in 60 urban and rural South African communities in KwaZulu-Natal. We posit three specific aims. AIM 1. Examine the associations between a) a set of major household risk factors and a set of adverse childhood experiences; and between b) the occurrence and nature of adverse childhood experiences and child psychosocial, health and educational outcomes. AIM 2. Explore the degree to which selected factors at multiple levels moderate the influence of major household risk factors on adverse childhood experiences, and adverse childhood experiences on key child outcomes. AIM 3. Test the effects of a major social policy innovation Conditional Cash Transfers on household and childhood risk factors (directly) and children’s well-being (indirectly). This project is a collaboration of researchers at New York University in the U.S. and the Human Sciences Research Council in South Africa in cooperation with the South African government and the World Bank. PUBLIC HEALTH RELEVANCE The results of this study have two main implications for public health. First, one set of results will indicate whether Conditional Cash Transfers can improve the health, education and well-being of poor South African children in high HIV/AIDS prevalence communities. Second, another set of results can inform the design of new public health and social policy strategies to support households in AIDS-affected communities.

Prinicipal Investigator: J. Lawrence Aber (New York University)

[button link=”http://projectreporter.nih.gov/project_info_description.cfm?aid=8053745&icde=11423324″ color=”green” newwindow=”yes”] View Online[/button]