Original Contribution

European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

, Volume 22, Issue 3, pp 165-175

First online:

Children working on the streets in Brazil: predictors of mental health problems

  • Mariana R. MacielAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry, Universidade Federal de Sao Paulo Email author 
  • , Andrea F. MelloAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry, Universidade Federal de Sao Paulo
  • , Victor FossaluzaAffiliated withMathematics and Statistics Institute, Universidade de Sao PauloDepartment of Statistics, Universidade Federal de Sao Carlos
  • , Luciana P. NobregaAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry, Universidade Federal de Sao Paulo
  • , Giuliana C. CividanesAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry, Universidade Federal de Sao Paulo
  • , Jair J. MariAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry, Universidade Federal de Sao Paulo
  • , Marcelo F. MelloAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry, Universidade Federal de Sao Paulo

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Abstract

The objective of this study was to determine which factors predict higher risk for mental health problems in children working on the streets. We studied a sample of families that had at least one child working on the streets, from October 2008 to March 2009. The instruments applied were the parent version strengths and difficulties questionnaire (SDQ), the childhood trauma questionnaire (CTQ) for children and caregivers, the WorldSAFE core questionnaire, the global assessment of relational functioning scale (GARF), the schedule for affective disorders and schizophrenia for school-age children (K-SADS), and a socio-demographic questionnaire. 191 children between 7 and 14 years of age were analyzed; 126 (66 %) were working on the streets, and 65 were siblings who did not work on the streets. Multivariate analysis showed that mental health problems in the caregivers, violent behaviors of the caregivers toward the children, absence of a partner living in the house, and lower levels of family functioning increased the risk of mental health problems in the children. Caregivers reported severe forms of physical punishment against their children in 62 % of cases. Caregivers who had suffered sexual abuse and emotional negligence in childhood were more violent with their children. Factors that increased risk for mental health symptoms in these children were caregivers’ psychopathology, physical punishment at home, single-parent structure, and poor family functioning. Work on the streets did not influence the children’s mental health, when multiple risk factors were considered; family characteristics were the most significant in this sample.

Keywords

Child abuse Intergenerational relations Child development Violence Child labor Street children