Psychosocial profile of institutionalised street children in Alexandria, Egypt: a comparative study with school children
Objective: The phenomenon of street children in Egypt constitutes a public health concern. This study aimed to investigate the characteristics of institutionalised street children in Alexandria, to compare the prevalence of substance abuse and conduct disorder between street children and school children, and to identify predictors of these mental health outcomes among street children.
Methods: Institutionalised street children (n = 102) participated in a cross-sectional comparative study with a matched group of school children (n = 156). An interviewing questionnaire was used to assess demographic characteristics and substance use. Conduct disorder was measured using the Revised Ontario Child Health study scale.
Results: Poverty, family breakdown, and domestic violence were the main reasons for street children having left home. Street children recorded significantly higher rates of substance use (9.8%) and conduct disorder (35.3%) compared to school children. In street children, smoking was a significant predictor of substance use and conduct disorder. Other predictors of conduct disorder included physical illness and having 5 to 7 siblings.
Conclusion: Substance abuse and conduct disorder were present among institutionalised
street children at higher rates than school children. Absence of basic life needs and disrupted families constituted the main reasons for leaving home. Interventions at the governmental and non-governmental levels are needed.