Mechanisms associated with maternal adverse childhood experiences on offspring's mental health in Nairobi informal settlements: A mediational model testing approach

Manasi Kumar, Beatrice Amugune, Beatrice Madeghe, Grace Nduku Wambua, Judith Osok, Anastasia Polkonikova-Wamoto, David Bukusi, Fred Were, Keng Yen Huang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) is a significant public health and social welfare problem in low-and middle income countries (LMICs). However, most ACEs research is based on developed countries, and little is known about mechanisms of early ACEs on adulthood health and offspring's wellbeing for populations in LMICs. This area is needed to guide social welfare policy and intervention service planning. This study addresses these research gaps by examining patterns of ACEs and understanding the role of ACEs on adulthood health (i.e., physical, mental health, experience of underage pregnancy) and offspring's mental health in Kenya. The study was guided by an Integrated Family Stress and Adverse Childhood Experiences Mediation Framework. Methods: Three hundred ninety four mothers from two informal communities in Kariobangi and Kangemi in Nairobi were included in this study. The Adverse Childhood Experiences International Questionnaire (ACE-IQ), the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K10), Overall Health and Quality of Life items, and Child Behavior Checklist were used to study research questions. Data was gathered through a one-time interview with mothers. Structural Equational Modeling (SEM) was applied for mediational mechanism testing. Results: Among 13 ACE areas, most mothers experienced multiple adversity during their childhood (Mean (SD) = 4.93 (2.52)), with household member treated violently (75%) as the most common ACE. SEM results showedthat all domains of ACEs were associated with some aspects of maternal health, and all three domains of maternal health (maternal mental health, physical health, and adolescent pregnancy) were significantly associated with development of offspring's mental health problems. Conclusion: ACEs are highly prevalent in Kenyan informal settlements. Consistent with cross cultural literature on family stress model, maternal ACEs are robust predictors for poor child mental health. Preventive interventions for child mental health need to address maternal adverse childhood traumatic experiences as well as their current health in order to effectively promote child mental health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number381
JournalBMC psychiatry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 5 2018


  • Adverse childhood experiences
  • Externalizing problems
  • Family stress model
  • Internalizing problems
  • Maternal mental health
  • Urban poverty

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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