Loyola researchers show that exposure to violence is a relevant factor in the mental health of children and adolescents in vulnerable populations in Guatemala.

Visit of Loyola researchers to one of Fe y Alegría’s schools Guatemala

 

A team of researchers from Loyola University formed by Rosalba Company and Joaquín Ibáñez, together with Diego Gómez, researcher at the University of Huelva, and Francisca López, researcher associated with the ETEA Foundation – Institute of Development of Loyola University, has published the article “Mental Health, Quality of Life and Violence Exposure in Low-Socioeconomic Status Children and Adolescents of Guatemala“, an investigation that analyzes the influence of sociodemographic and socioeconomic factors on the adjustment of children and adolescents in Guatemala, Quality of Life and Violence Exposure in Low-Socioeconomic Status Children and Adolescents of Guatemala”, an investigation that analyzes the influence of sociodemographic and socioeconomic factors on the psychological adjustment of the Guatemalan child and adolescent population, with special attention to variables such as food insecurity and exposure to violence.

The study was published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (Journal Citation Reports Q2) as part of a special issue on “Social Determinants of Mental Health” directed by Loyola University researchers Emma Motrico, Jose Alberto Salinas and Mª Luisa Rodero.

The study was conducted within the framework of the project “Socioeconomic Status and Cognitive Development in Childhood and Adolescence: Innovative Assessment Tools for Vulnerable Populations. The case of Guatemala“, funded by the Andalusian Agency of International Cooperation for Development, and implemented by the ETEA Foundation – Institute of Development of Loyola University in collaboration with the Entreculturas Foundation and the educational organization Fe y Alegría Guatemala.

Summary of the article

Growing up in vulnerable conditions has an impact on the mental health and well-being of children and adolescents. However, this evidence has rarely been obtained in low- and middle-income countries such as Guatemala, where food insecurity and exposure to violence frequently threaten childhood development. The aim of this study was to analyze the relationships that sociodemographic and socioeconomic factors have with the psychological adjustment of Guatemalan children and adolescents of low socioeconomic status (SES), and how these relationships were mediated by food insecurity and exposure to violence. A total of 185 participants (51% girls aged 6-17 years) from three vulnerable schools-belonging to Fe y Alegría Guatemala-located in particularly disadvantaged rural and urban areas of Guatemala were assessed.

The results indicated that exposure to violence significantly moderated the effect of sociodemographic and socioeconomic variables in terms of depression, anxiety and health-related quality of life. Adolescents more exposed to violence showed higher levels of depression and anxiety, as well as lower levels of health-related quality of life. However, food insecurity did not appear to influence psychological adjustment outcomes in this population sample.

These findings highlight the relevance of exposure to violence for mental health and well-being, being a factor that should be taken into account when designing public health policies to promote the well-being of the child and adolescent population.