Childhood adversities of populations living in low-income countries: prevalence, characteristics, and mental health consequences

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Purpose of reviewAlthough an association between childhood adversity and psychiatric disorder has been documented, most research has centered upon those living in developed countries and the types of adversities those populations experience. Most of the world's youth, however, live in the poorest countries and face additional types of adversity for which limited data are available. The aim of this review is to synthesize recently published research and policy documents regarding the prevalence, characteristics, and mental health consequences of childhood adversity in low-income countries.Recent findingsMany youth in low-income countries are exposed to war-related violence, are orphaned by AIDS, work long hours in dangerous conditions, and, among girls in Africa, undergo female genital mutilation. These children have more posttraumatic stress disorder and depression than unexposed youth. Family violence, discrimination, and poverty may exacerbate the effects of war-related trauma and AIDS orphanhood upon mental health.ConclusionResearch on the psychological consequences of childhood adversity in low-income countries is increasing, but is limited by the range of mental health outcomes evaluated and by small nonrepresentative samples. Further research is warranted to inform child advocacy and to guide public policy and the actions of nongovernmental agencies involved in the protection and welfare of children.

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