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Int J Ment Health Syst. 2009 Nov 24;3(1):26. doi: 10.1186/1752-4458-3-26.

Parental HIV/AIDS status and death, and children's psychological wellbeing.

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University of Glasgow, UK.



Ghana has an estimated one million orphans, 250,000 are due to AIDS parental deaths. This is the first study that examined the impact of parental HIV/AIDS status and death on the mental health of children in Ghana.


In a cross-sectional survey, 4 groups of 200 children (children whose parents died of AIDS, children whose parents died of causes other than AIDS, children living with parents infected with HIV/AIDS, and non-orphaned children whose parents are not known to be infected with HIV/AIDS) aged between 10 and 19 were interviewed on their hyperactivity, emotional, conduct, and peer problems using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire.


Children whose parents died of AIDS showed very high levels of peer problems [F (3,196) = 7.34, p < .001] whilst both orphaned groups scored similarly high on conduct problems [F (3, 196) = 14.85, p < .001]. Hyperactivity showed no difference and was very low in the entire sample. Emotional problems were very high in all the groups except among the non-orphaned children [F (3, 196) = 5.10, p < .001].


Orphans and children living with parents infected with HIV/AIDS are at heightened risks for emotional and behavioural disorders and that efforts to address problems in children affected by HIV/AIDS must focus on both groups of children. Parallel to this, researchers should see these findings as generated hypotheses (rather than conclusions) calling for further exploration of specific causal linkages between HIV/AIDS and children's mental health, using more rigorous research tools and designs.

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