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The prevalence of mental health problems in Ethiopian child laborers

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Child labor refers to a state when a child is involved in exploitative economical activities that are mentally, physically, and socially hazardous. There are no prevalence studies on the magnitude of psychiatric disorders among child laborers. Methods: 

A cross-sectional population survey was conducted in Addis Ababa using the Diagnostic Interview for Children and Adolescents (DICA). Subjects were a random sample of 528 child laborers aged between 5 and 15 years and comprising child domestics, street-workers and private enterprise workers. These were compared with 472 non-economically active controls. Results: 

The aggregate prevalence of any DSM-III-R childhood emotional and behavioral disorders was found to be 16.5%, with 20.1% and 12.5% among child laborers and controls respectively, OR = 1.89 (95% CI, 1.34–2.67, p < .01). Internalizing disorders such as mood disorders were significantly higher among the laborers than the non-laborers, OR = 6.65 (95% CI, 2.20–22.52, p = .0001). Anxiety disorder was seen over twofold among child laborers while psychosocial stressors were one and half times more likely among the study subjects than controls. When all factors were taken into account, child labor status was the only significant factor in determining DSM-III-R diagnosis. Conclusion: 

In this study childhood emotional and behavioral disorders are found to be more common among child laborers than among non-laborers. We recommend a larger study to look into childhood disorders and risk factors in child labor. As part of the concerted effort, government, NGOs, and the public should at least view child labor as a menace in a child's development, with risk of psychosocial difficulties.
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Keywords: Child labor; DICA; Ethiopia; emotional disorders; prevalence

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Children's Department, Michael Rutter Centre, Maudsley Hospital, London, UK 2: Department of Psychiatry, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia 3: Department of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Umeå University, Sweden

Publication date: September 1, 2006

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