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Childhood maltreatment and its mental health consequences among Indian adolescents with a history of child work

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Rakesh Pandey, Shulka Gupta, Aakanksha Upadhyay, Rajendra Prasad Gupta, Meenakshi Shukla, Ramesh Chandra Mishra, Yogesh Kumar Arya, Tushar Singh, Shanta Niraula, Jennifer Yun Fai Lau, Veena Kumari

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)496-508
Number of pages13
JournalAustralian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2020

King's Authors


Objectives: Although the prevalence and mental health consequences of childhood maltreatment among adolescents have been studied widely, there are few data addressing these issues in Asian lower middle–income countries. Here, we assessed the prevalence and types of childhood maltreatment and, for the first time, examined their association with current mental health problems in Indian adolescents with a history of child work. Methods: One hundred and thirty-two adolescents (12–18 years; 114 males, 18 females) with a history of child work were interviewed using the Child Maltreatment, Conventional Crime, and Witnessing and Indirect Victimisation modules of the Juvenile Victimization Questionnaire. Potential psychiatric diagnoses and current emotional and behavioural problems were assessed using the culturally adapted Hindi versions of the Youth’s Inventory–4R and the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire, respectively. Results: A large proportion of the sample reported childhood abuse or neglect (83.36%), direct or indirect victimisation (100%) and experienced symptoms of one or more psychiatric disorders (83.33%). Of the most common maltreatment types, physical abuse was present for 72.73% (extra-familial 56.25%, intra-familial 42.71%), emotional abuse for 47.7% (extra-familial 74.6%, intra-familial 12.9%), general neglect for 17.4% and unsafe home for 45.5% of the adolescents. All these maltreatment types were associated with poor mental health, with emotional abuse showing the strongest and wide-ranging impact. Conclusions: Indian adolescents with a history of child work are at an extremely high risk of extra-familial physical and emotional abuse as well as victimisation. They also experience a range of psychiatric symptoms, especially if they suffered emotional abuse. There is an urgent need for routine mental health screening and to consider emotional abuse in all current and future top-down and bottom-up approaches to address childhood maltreatment, as well as in potential interventions to ameliorate its adverse effects on mental health and well-being, of child and adolescent workers.

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