Background Young people living in poverty are at higher risk of mental disorders, but whether interventions aimed to reduce poverty have lasting effects on mental health has not been well established. We examined whether exposure to Brazil’s conditional cash transfers programme (CCT), Bolsa Família (BFP), during childhood reduces the risk of mental health problems in early adolescence. Methods We used data from 2063 participants in the 2004 Pelotas Birth Cohort study. Propensity score matching (PSM) estimated the association between BFP participation at age 6 and externalising problems (Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire - SDQ and violent behaviour) and socio-emotional competencies (Development and Well-Being Assessment questionnaire, and the Nowick-Strickland Internal-External Scale) at age 11. Results PSM results suggest that programme participation at age of six was not significantly associated with externalising problems (P=0.433), prosocial behaviour (P = 0.654), violent behaviour (P = 0.342), social aptitudes (P = 0.281), positive attributes (P = 0.439), or locus of control (P=0.148) at the age of 11 years. Conclusions Participation in BFP during childhood was not associated with improved or worsened mental health in early adolescence. While we cannot fully discard that findings may be due to adverse selection, results suggest that CCTs alone may not be sufficient to improve mental health outcomes and would be prudent to assess whether mental health interventions as an addition to CCTs may be helpful.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages1
JournalJournal of Global Health
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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