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Introduction: Children affected by parental HIV are more likely than unaffected peers to experience trauma and are at-risk for negative psychological and social outcomes. This study aimed to examine the relationship between adverse childhood events and psychosocial functioning among children affected by parental HIV.

Methods: A total of 790 children ages 6–17 from Henan, China were enrolled in a longitudinal, randomized controlled trial of a resilience-based psychosocial intervention. At baseline, children reported on numerous psychosocial factors, including trauma exposure, symptoms of anxiety and depression, and peer social functioning. We used linear regression analysis to test the direct effect of trauma exposure on peer social functioning. We then tested whether depression and anxiety symptoms served as two potential parallel mediators in the association between trauma exposure and peer social functioning.

Results: Trauma exposure was significantly associated with poor peer social functioning (β = −0.10, p = 0.005) when controlling for key covariates. When depression and anxiety symptoms were added to the model, the association between trauma exposure and peer social functioning became nonsignificant. Instead, there were significant indirect effects from trauma exposure to peer social functioning via depression (β = −0.06, 95%CI[−0.09, −0.03]) and anxiety (β = −0.02, 95%CI[−0.04, −0.00]). Conclusion: This study is among the first to link trauma exposure to peer social functioning deficits for children affected by parental HIV and demonstrates that symptoms of anxiety and depression mediate this relationship. Findings underscore the need for comprehensive psychosocial support for children affected by HIV, including screening for trauma exposure and mental health disorders.

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© 2021 Ezell, Harrison, Jiang and Li. 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.

APA Citation

Ezell, J., Harrison, S. E., Jiang, Y., & Li, X. (2021). Impact of Adverse Childhood Events on the Psychosocial Functioning of Children Affected by Parental HIV in Rural China. Frontiers in Psychology, 11.