Investigating the psychosocial determinants of child health in Africa: The Drakenstein Child Health Study

D. J. Stein, N. Koen, K. A. Donald, C. M. Adnams, S. Koopowitz, C. Lund, A. Marais, B. Myers, A. Roos, K. Sorsdahl, M. Stern, M. Tomlinson, C. van der Westhuizen, B. Vythilingum, L. Myer, W. Barnett, K. Brittain, H. J. Zar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

94 Scopus citations


Background: Early life psychobiological and psychosocial factors play a key role in influencing child health outcomes. Longitudinal studies may help elucidate the relevant risk and resilience profiles, and the underlying mechanisms that impact on child health, but there is a paucity of birth cohort data from low and middle-income countries (LMIC). We describe the rationale for and present baseline findings from the psychosocial component of the Drakenstein Child Health Study (DCHS). Methods: We review the psychosocial measures used in the DCHS, a multidisciplinary birth cohort study in a peri-urban area in South Africa, and provide initial data on psychological distress, depression, substance use, and exposure to traumatic stressors and intimate partner violence (IPV). These and other measures will be assessed longitudinally in mothers in order to investigate associations with child neurodevelopmental and health outcomes. Results: Baseline psychosocial data is presented for mothers (n= 634) and fathers (n= 75) who have completed antenatal assessments to date. The sample of pregnant mothers is characterized by multiple psychosocial risk factors, including a high prevalence of psychological distress and depression, high levels of substance use, and high exposure to traumatic stressors and IPV. Discussion: These data are consistent with prior South African studies which have documented a high prevalence of a multitude of risk factors during pregnancy. Further longitudinal assessment of mothers and children may clarify the underlying psychobiological and psychosocial mechanisms which impact on child health, and so inform clinical and public health interventions appropriate to the South African and other LMIC contexts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-35
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Neuroscience Methods
StatePublished - 13 Oct 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Birth cohort
  • Child health
  • Depression
  • Intimate partner violence
  • South Africa
  • Substance use


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