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Mental health problems among orphanage children in the Gaza Strip

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Abstract:

Lamia Thabet, Abdel Aziz Mousa Thabet, Sajida Abdul Hussein and Panos Vostanis report on a study that aimed to establish the level of emotional problems among 115 children aged 9–16 years (average 13.4), who were living in two orphanages in the Gaza Strip. The children's age of admission to the orphanage (average 8.8 years) was higher than in traditional orphanages in other countries. This was related to the reasons for admission, following their father's death, and the inability of their remaining family to care for them. However, children retained substantial contact with their family of origin by visiting during school holidays (88.6%) or being visited at the unit (97.4%). Using previous standardised mental health measures completed by the children and their main carers, children demonstrated high rates of anxiety, depressive and post-traumatic stress reactions. These mental health problems were strongly inter-related but were not found to be associated with social/care variables. Potential implications of the findings for orphanages and other residential units in developing countries are discussed. These should take into consideration the socio-cultural characteristics of each country and limited local resources; involve non-governmental organisations and local communities; tackle wider stigmatising attitudes; and instill a child-centred philosophy within these settings.

Keywords: CHILDREN; EMOTIONAL AND MENTAL HEALTH; GAZA; INSTITUTIONS; ORPHAN; RESIDENTIAL

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2007

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