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Associations between caregiver mental health and young children's behaviour in a rural Kenyan sample.

  • Author(s): Laurenzi, Christina A
  • Hunt, Xanthe
  • Skeen, Sarah
  • Sundin, Phillip
  • Weiss, Robert E
  • Kosi, Victor
  • Rotheram-Borus, Mary Jane
  • Tomlinson, Mark
  • et al.

Background: Research shows that caregiver mental health problems have direct, significant effects on child behaviour. While these risks are amplified in low-resource settings, limited evidence exists from these places, especially sub-Saharan Africa. Objective: We measured associations between caregiver mental health and child behaviour in a rural Kenyan sample, hypothesizing that higher rates of caregiver mental health would be associated with increased child behavioural problems. We also sought to provide an overview of caregiver mental health symptoms in our sample. Method: Cross-sectional data were collected from caregivers of children ages 4-5 years old enrolled in a community-based early child development programme in western Kenya. 465 caregivers were recruited and assessed at baseline, and answered questions about child behaviour, mental health symptoms (depression, anxiety, stress), and help-seeking. A multivariate linear regression model was used to assess significance of each mental health factor. Results: Caregiver anxiety (p = 0.01) and parenting stress (p < 0.001) were significantly associated with child behavioural problems. 245 caregivers (52.9%) had high levels of symptoms of depression, anxiety, or both; furthermore, 101 caregivers (21.7%) scored above the cut-off for both of these scales. A high proportion of our sample (60.6%) reported seeking some formal or informal psychosocial support services; however, less than one-third of these caregivers were symptomatic (30.9%). Conclusion: Anxiety and stress were associated with poorer child behavioural outcomes. Our sample reflected a higher prevalence of caregiving adults with mental health symptomology than previous estimates from Kenya, with few high-symptom caregivers seeking support. We discuss further implications for programming and health services delivery.

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