Author: Ssewamala FM, Neilands TB, Waldfogel J, Ismayilova L.
By adversely affecting family functioning and stability, poverty constitutes an important risk factor for children’s poor mental health functioning. This study examines the impact of a comprehensive microfinance intervention, designed to reduce the risk of poverty, on depression among AIDS-orphaned youth.
Children from 15 comparable primary schools in Rakai District of Uganda, one of those hardest hit by HIV/AIDS in the country, were randomly assigned to control (n = 148) or treatment (n = 138) conditions. Children in the treatment condition received a comprehensive microfinance intervention comprising matched savings accounts, financial management workshops, and mentorship. This was in addition to traditional services provided for all school-going orphaned adolescents (counseling and school supplies). Data were collected at wave 1 (baseline), wave 2 (10 months after intervention), and wave 3 (20 months after intervention). We used multilevel growth models to examine the trajectory of depression in treatment and control conditions, measured using Children’s Depression Inventory (Kovacs).
Children in the treatment group exhibited a significant decrease in depression, whereas their control group counterparts showed no change in depression.
The findings indicate that over and above traditional psychosocial approaches used to address mental health functioning among orphaned children in sub-Saharan Africa, incorporating poverty alleviation-focused approaches, such as this comprehensive microfinance intervention, has the potential to improve psychosocial functioning of these children.
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