Do children orphaned by AIDS experience distress over time? A latent growth curve analysis of depressive symptoms

Psychol Health Med. 2014;19(4):420-32. doi: 10.1080/13548506.2013.841965. Epub 2013 Oct 3.


This longitudinal study aimed to examine the enduring effects of parental HIV/AIDS on children's psychological well-being in Asia. A sample of 1625 children aged from 6 to 18 years old were assessed annually for their depressive symptoms over three years. Latent growth curve modeling (LGCM) was used to examine the trajectories of depressive symptoms among AIDS orphans and vulnerable children in comparison with children from HIV-free families. AIDS orphans demonstrated the highest initial level of depressive symptoms among the three groups. On average, children's depressive symptoms' scores can be expected to realize an approximate 25% decrease for AIDS orphans, 19% decrease for vulnerable children, and 15% decrease for comparison children over a three-year period. Individual differences within the groups showed that children with higher initial level of depressive symptoms can be expected to decrease slower over time. Multiple group LGCM showed that the three groups of children demonstrated significantly different trajectories of depressive symptoms. Among the key demographic factors, only age exerted an effect on the trajectory of depressive symptoms of vulnerable children, indicating that the younger children showed higher level of initial depressive symptoms and lower rate of decrease than the older children. The current study enriched our knowledge on the longitudinal effect of parental HIV/AIDS on children's emotional distress. Future psychological support might take the children's developmental stages and cultural appropriateness into consideration and deliver service for the most vulnerable group of children affected by HIV/AIDS.

Keywords: HIV/AIDS; children; depressive symptoms; latent growth curve model; longitudinal trajectories.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome*
  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Orphaned / psychology*
  • China
  • Depression / etiology
  • Depression / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Regression Analysis