We outline the benefits, challenges and possible approaches to developing mathematical models that could be used to estimate the magnitude of negative consequences of adult HIV infection for children. Adult HIV infection can lead to numerous negative consequences for dependent children, including depression, anxiety, withdrawal from school and early sexual debut, among others. For advocacy and planning purposes, it is important to highlight and consider as many of these as possible. A focus solely on orphan numbers, which is the typical summary measure for children affected by HIV and AIDS, can be misleading. The complexity of child development that is characterized by the interaction of a multitude of proximal and distal factors, coupled with a significant lack of data on child development in the context of adult HIV infection make the development of models a challenging task. Although it may not be possible in the first attempt to develop a population-based model capable of examining family dynamics, the negative consequences together with the impact of interventions, steps in that direction can be taken. We propose approaches and assumptions that we believe will allow the development of a useful first set of models. We conclude with a brief discussion of the type of data that, if collected, would facilitate refinement and development of these models.