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Children's Mental Health and Collective Violence: A Bi-National Study On the United States/Mexico Border

Friday, October 19, 2012
Room R06-R09 (Morial Convention Center)
Marie Leiner, Ph.D.1, Aparna Atluru, Medical, Student2 and Cecilia DeVargas, MD1, (1)Psychiatry, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, El Paso, TX, (2)Texas Tech Health Sciences Center, El Paso, TX

"Purpose ,"To investigate the risk effects of poverty and exposure to collective violence attributed to organized crime on the mental health of children living on the United States-Mexico border.

"Methods ," This is a repeated, cross-sectional study. Measures of risk effects were determined by comparing scores of psychosocial and behavioral problems among children and adolescents living in the border region, either in the United States or Mexico, in two different periods (2007/2010). A retrospective audit review of patients living in poverty who responded once to the pictorial version of the Child Behavior Checklist (P+CBCL) in Spanish were randomly selected from clinics in El Paso, TX, United States (poverty alone group), and Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico (poverty plus violence group). Only children of Hispanic origin (Mexican-American/Mexican) living below the poverty level and presenting at the clinic for non-emergency visits with no history of diagnosed mental, neurological, or life-threatening disease or disability were included.

"Results ," Exposure to collective violence and poverty seemed to have an additive effect on children's mental health. Children exposed to both poverty and collective violence had higher problems scores, as measured by the P+CBCL, than those exposed to poverty alone.

"Conclusion " It is important to consider that children and adolescents exposed to collective violence and poverty are also those with fewer chances to receive treatment. Untreated mental health problems predict violence, antisocial behaviors, and delinquency, and affect families, communities, and individuals. Therefore, a need to address the mental health of children on the border is crucial to counteract the devastating effects this setting will have in the short-term and near future.