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The psychological effect of orphanhood: a study of orphans in Rakai district.

by J Sengendo, J Nambi
Health transition review : the cultural, social, and behavioural determinants of health ()


This paper examines the psychological effect of orphanhood in a case study of 193 children in Rakai district of Uganda. Studies on orphaned children have not examined the psychological impact. Adopting parents and schools have not provided the emotional support these children often need. Most adopting parents lack information on the problem and are therefore unable to offer emotional support; and school teachers do not know how to identify psychological and social problems and consequently fail to offer individual and group attention. The concept of the locus of control is used to show the relationship between the environment and individuals' assessment of their ability to deal with it and to adjust behaviour. Most orphans risk powerful cumulative and often negative effects as a result of parents' death, thus becoming vulnerable and predisposed to physical and psychological risks. The children were capable of distinguishing between their quality of life when their parents were alive and well, when they became sick, and when they eventually died. Most children lost hope when it became clear that their parents were sick, they also felt sad and helpless. When they were adopted, many of them felt angry and depressed. Children living with widowed fathers and those living on their own were significantly more depressed. These children were also more externally oriented than those who lived with their widowed mothers. Teachers need to be retrained in diagnosing psycho-social problems and given skills to deal with them. Short courses should be organized for guardians and community development workers in problem identification and counselling.

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