Mental health problems and their association to violence and maltreatment in a nationally representative sample of Tanzanian secondary school students
- 284 Downloads
Little is known about the prevalence of mental health problems among adolescents in Sub-Saharan Africa. Research consistently determined violence and maltreatment to be important risk factors. In this study, we examined the prevalence of mental health problems among adolescents in Tanzania, as well as the association with exposure to violence and maltreatment.
We administered a set of questionnaires (e.g., strength and difficulties questionnaire; conflict tactic scale) to a nationally representative sample of 700 Tanzanian secondary school children (52% girls; age 14.92 years, SD = 1.02) and 333 parents or primary caregivers (53% females; age 43.47 years, SD = 9.02).
41% of the students reported an elevated level of mental health problems (emotional problems 40%, peer problems 63%, conduct problems 45%, hyperactivity 17%) in the past 6 months. Concordantly, 31% of parents reported observing an elevated level of mental health problems in their children (emotional problems 37%, peer problems 54%, conduct problems 35%, hyperactivity 17%). After controlling for other risk factors, we found significant associations between physical violence by parents and adolescent’s mental health problems reported by students (β = 0.15) and their parents (β = 0.33).
Our findings suggest a high prevalence of mental health problems using screening tools among secondary school students in Tanzania as well as an association between physical violence by parents and adolescents’ mental health problems. Our findings emphasize the need to inform the population at large about the potentially adverse consequences associated with violence against children and adolescents.
KeywordsMental health Violence Maltreatment Prevalence Tanzania Sub-Saharan Africa
This research was supported by the Young Scholar Fund of the University of Konstanz and vivo International. We thank all head of schools and the school counselors for their support in this study. We are very grateful to our research team, including: Getrude Mkinga, Andrew Mtitu, Gloria Mushi, Suzan Ngahyoma, Moyo Osiah Mwaihola, Rehema Mdoe, Simeon Mgode, Sophia Backhaus and Katharina Zepf. In a special way, we are grateful to Thomas Elbert for his support and supervision throughout the project.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interests.
- 2.United Nations (2014) Mental Health Matters: Social Inclusion of Youth with Mental Health ConditionsGoogle Scholar
- 3.World Health Organization (2004) Promoting Mental Health: Concepts, Emerging Evidence, Practice. GenevaGoogle Scholar
- 6.WHO (2013) Mental Health Action Plan 2013–2020. GenevaGoogle Scholar
- 9.Yewatkar VD, Pande PD, Bangde AL, Joshi T (2015) Prevalence of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children. Int J Res Med Sci 3:274–280Google Scholar
- 23.Weaver CM, Borkowski JG, Whitman TL (2008) Violence breeds violence: childhood exposure and adolescent conduct problems. J Community Pschol 23:1–7Google Scholar
- 26.Hermenau K, Hecker T, Ruf M, Schauer E, Elbert T, Schauer M (2011) Childhood adversity, mental ill-health and aggressive behavior in an African orphanage: changes in response to trauma-focused therapy and the implementation of a new instructional system. Child Adolesc Psychiatry Ment Health 5:29CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- 28.Pankhurst A, Negussie N, Mulugete E (2016) Understanding children’s experiences of violence in Ethiopia: evidence from young lives. Florence; (November)Google Scholar
- 31.The Poverty Eradication Division of the Ministry of Planning and Economic Affairs of the United Republic of Tanzania, Research on Poverty Alleviation (2009) An analysis of household income and expenditure in Tanzania. Dar Es SalaamGoogle Scholar
- 32.Brislin RM, Lonner WJ, Thorndike RM (1973) Cross cultural research methods. Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
- 34.Straus MA, Hamby SL (1997) Measuring physical & psychological maltreatment of children with the Conflict Tactics Scales. In: Kaufman Kantor G, Jasinski JL (eds) Out of the darkness Contemporary research perspectives on family violence. Sage Publications, Thousand OaksGoogle Scholar
- 38.West SG, Finch JF, Curran PJ (1995) Structural equation models with normal variables: problems and remedies. In: Hoyle RH (ed) Structural equation modeling: concepts, issues, and applications. Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, pp 56–75Google Scholar
- 46.United Nations (2015) Transforming our World: the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development. New YorkGoogle Scholar