Child abuse and neglect and associated mental health outcomes: a large, population-based survey among children and adolescents from Jamaica and Uganda

Agata Debowska, Daniel Boduszek, Christine Fray-Aiken, Eric Awich Ochen, Karyl T. Powell-Booth, Esther Nanfuka Kalule, Roxanne Harvey, Florence Turyomurugyendo, Kenisha Nelson, Dominic Willmott, Samantha Mason

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Few studies assess how child abuse and neglect (CAN) affects adolescents’ mental health. Further, the majority of studies conducted to date discount the individual CAN items and report overall prevalence rates for different types of abuse and neglect. The purpose of this study was to examine the levels of and gender differences in CAN subtypes, lifetime prevalence of individual CAN items and the contribution of different CAN subtypes for explaining depression, anxiety and irritability. 

Design/methodology/approach: The sample included Jamaican (n = 7,182, 60.8% female) and Ugandan (n = 11,518, 52.4% female) youths. The authors used a population-based cross-sectional study design. Youths completed an anonymous survey in school settings. 

Findings: The authors found gender differences in the levels of CAN subtypes. Maltreatment behaviors of lesser severity were more commonly endorsed by the youths than those of greater severity. Neglect and emotional abuse were the strongest correlates of depression (e.g. neglect: ß = 0.23, among Jamaican youths; emotional abuse outside-the-home: ß = 0.23, among Ugandan girls), anxiety (e.g. neglect: ß = 0.17, among Ugandan girls; emotional abuse outside-the-home: ß = 0.27, among Ugandan girls) and irritability (e.g. emotional abuse in-the-home: ß = 0.17, among Jamaican boys; emotional abuse outside-the-home: ß = 0.17, among Ugandan girls) in most samples.

Originality/value: These findings will inform policymakers and professionals working with youths in Jamaica and Uganda, providing comprehensive contemporary insights beyond existing research in these regions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)42-65
Number of pages24
JournalMental Health and Social Inclusion
Issue number1
Early online date14 Sep 2023
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jan 2024

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