Caregiver alcohol use and mental health among children orphaned by HIV/AIDS in South Africa.


Research in the developed world suggests that parental alcohol use negatively impacts child mental health. However, little research has examined these relations among children in the developing world and no studies to date have done so in the context of AIDS-orphanhood. Therefore, the present study tested the interactive effect of AIDS-orphan status with caregiver alcohol use on child mental health. The sample included 742 children (51.2% female; Mage = 9.18; age range: 7-11 years; 29.8 AIDS-orphans; 36.8% orphaned by causes other than AIDS; 33.4% non-orphaned) recruited from Mangaung in the Free State Province of South Africa. Child mental health was assessed via child self-report, caregiver, and teacher reports; and caregiver alcohol use via self-report. Path analyses, via structural equation modeling, revealed significant direct effects for AIDS-orphan status on caregiver-reported child mental health; and for caregiver alcohol-use problems on teacher-reported child mental health. However, the interaction effect of AIDS-orphan status with caregiver alcohol use did not reach significance on all three reports of child mental health problems. These results suggest that orphan status and caregiver alcohol use may independently relate to mental health problems in children and that the effects of both should be considered in the context of the mental health needs of children in AIDS-affected countries.