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Original Research ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Psychiatry | doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00442

Effects of institutionalization and parental living status on children’s self-esteem, externalizing and internalizing problems in Rwanda

  • 1Learning and Research Unit, Department of Learning and Engagement, Hope and Homes for Children, Rwanda
  • 2Clinical Psychology Department, University of Rwanda, Rwanda
  • 3Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy Unit, Department of Psychology, Université de Fribourg, Switzerland
  • 4Clinical and Health Psychology Unit, Department of Psychology, Université de Fribourg, Switzerland

The negative effects of institutionalization on children’s wellbeing have been extensively documented. Throughout the world, particularly in developing countries, many children in orphanages have parents and it is not clear how this situation affects the psychological adjustment of institutionalized children. This study aimed at investigating specifically whether institutionalization impacts negatively children’s psychological adjustment defined in terms of externalizing behavior, internalizing behavior and self-esteem and whether having living parents has additional influence. Using Coopersmith Self-Esteem Inventory and Child Behavior Checklist, data were collected in Rwanda from 6 registered orphanages and 6 primary schools. Ninety-five institutionalized and 82 not institutionalized children aged 9 to 16 participated in the study. For each group we included children whose parents are alive and children without parents. Two, two-way analyses of covariance were performed on externalizing behavior, internalizing behavior and global self-esteem scores while controlling for age and gender. As expected, we found significantly more externalizing problems and lower self-esteem for institutionalized children. Institutionalized children have significantly more internalizing behavior problems when aged 12.63 or bellow. Unexpectedly, having living parents was an aggravating factor among institutionalized children for externalizing behavior and it did not boost their self-esteem. This study provides an important additional understanding in the known effects of institutionalization by highlighting the role of parental living status for the psychological adjustment of these children. This should be considered when developing and improving supportive specific intervention programs for such children and also when making the initial decision to place a child with living parents in an institution.

Keywords: orphanage, psychological adjustment, self-esteem, Externalizing Behavior, Internalizing Behavior, Family, Institutionalization, Child Care

Received: 15 May 2018; Accepted: 04 Jun 2019.

Edited by:

Gianluca Serafini, Dipartimento di Neuroscienze e Organi di Senso, Ospedale San Martino (IRCCS), Italy

Reviewed by:

Darlene A. Kertes, University of Florida, United States
Herczog Mária, Youth & Family Services, United States  

Copyright: © 2019 NSABIMANA, Rutembesa, Wilhelm and Martin Soelch. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Epaphrodite NSABIMANA, Hope and Homes for Children, Learning and Research Unit, Department of Learning and Engagement, Kigali, Rwanda,