Duke Study Finds Orphans at Risk

Mar 25, 2011

A study conducted by Duke University researchers finds orphans around the world at great risk of experiencing traumatic events, and for those events to lead to later health and mental health issues. It shows 98% of those children have experienced trauma beyond the loss of their parent. The traumas include things like physical or sexual abuse and witnessing violence or death. It also finds young boys just as vulnerable as young girls.

Kathryn Whetten, director of the Center for Policy and Inequalities Research at the Duke Global Health Institute and leader the study, says " Orphaned and abandoned children around the world are very vulnerable to different kinds of abuse and to experiencing more traumatic events. And there are so many, 150 million just orphans and even more abandoned kids. They represent a large group of future citizens."

Whetten also says there are things that can be done, like "helping protect them by supporting national and sustainable structures, governments, organizations, NGOs. And there are things we can do to help kids who already have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, behavioral difficulties."

The study is tracking the lives of more than 1,200 orphaned and abandoned children over a 10 year span in Cambodia, India, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania.

"There’s a will within the countries to want to care for the children, it’s really important to them. And the hope is that there’s a recognition that these issues are going on, and that there’s something we can do about it," says Whetten.

The study is published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress.