n Southern African Journal of Social Work and Social Development - Childhood family environment and depression in early adulthood in Botswana - research

Volume 31 Number 3
  • ISSN : 2520-0097
  • E-ISSN: 2415-5829



The childhood family environment is a determinant of mental health outcomes later in life. Yet, few studies have examined its role in outcomes such as depression in early adulthood, especially in low- and middle-income countries such as Botswana. This study explores the relationship between childhood family environmental factors and depression among young adults in Botswana. A sample of 351 students at the University of Botswana was surveyed through a self-administered questionnaire, which included various childhood environmental factors, the Beck Depression Inventory-II and socio-demographic items. Descriptive statistics, t-tests and regression models were used in the data analyses. About one in four young adults reported moderate to severe symptoms of depression with about one in ten in the severe category. Childhood alcohol use, parental drug and alcohol use, physical assault, and psychological aggression towards parents or guardians during childhood, all significantly predicted symptoms of depression in early adulthood. Altogether, the childhood family environmental factors and gender explained significant variance in depressive symptoms. Multiple adverse childhood environments constitute significant risk factors for depression in early adulthood and the next generation. Preventive and early intervention services for vulnerable children, evaluation of mental health, childhood family experiences, and creating awareness of the need for treatment are critical. Cognitive behavioural therapy and mindfulness training are possible strategies to reduce the life-course effects of adverse childhood family environmental factors on depression in young adults.

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