, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 301-313

Telling the Children: Disclosure of Maternal HIV Infection and Its Effects on Child Psychosocial Adjustment


We present descriptive information pertaining to mothers' decision to disclose their HIV infection status to their children, examine correlates of disclosure, and compare mother and child reports of psychosocial adjustment difficulties as a function of disclosure. In contrast to prior studies, a longitudinal (pre-disclosure to post-disclosure) design was used. Participants were 99 inner-city African American mothers and one of their non-infected children. At the last assessment, a majority (68%) of children were not aware of their mother's HIV status; however, most mothers planned to disclose eventually. Of the children who knew their mother's HIV status, almost all had been told by their mothers. Mothers reported a significant increase in child behavior problems and a decrease in mother-child relationship quality from pre- to post-disclosure. Children reported a significant increase in their understanding of HIV/AIDS, but no significant behavioral changes. Clinical implications of the findings and directions for future research are discussed.