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Approximately 153 million children worldwide are orphaned and vulnerable to potentially traumatic events (PTEs). Gender differences in PTEs in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC) are not well-understood, although support services and prevention programs often primarily involve girls.
The Positive Outcomes for Orphans study used a two-stage, cluster-randomized sampling design to identify 2837 orphaned and separated children (OSC) in five LMIC in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. We examined self-reported prevalence and incidence of several PTE types, including physical and sexual abuse, among 2235 children who were ≥10 years at baseline or follow-up, with a focus on gender comparisons.
Lifetime prevalence by age 13 of any PTE other than loss of a parent was similar in both boys [91.7% (95% confidence interval (CI) (85.0–95.5)] and girls [90.3% CI (84.2–94.1)] in institutional-based care, and boys [92.0% (CI 89.0–94.2)] and girls [92.9% CI (89.8–95.1)] in family-based care; annual incidence was similarly comparable between institution dwelling boys [23.6% CI (19.1,−29.3)] and girls [23.6% CI (18.6,−30.0)], as well as between family-dwelling boys [30.7% CI (28.0,−33.6)] and girls [29.3% CI (26.8,−32.0)]. Physical and sexual abuse had the highest overall annual incidence of any trauma type for institution-based OSC [12.9% CI (9.6–17.4)] and family-based OSC [19.4% CI (14.5–26.1)], although estimates in each setting were no different between genders.
Prevalence and annual incidence of PTEs were high among OSC in general, but gender-specific estimates were comparable. Although support services and prevention programs are essential for female OSC, programs for male OSC are equally important.
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