Background and objective: We explore whether perceived stress among Kenyan mothers is predicted by childhood exposure to emotional abuse – both witnessed among parents and experienced directly. Further, we explore whether this association is mediated by social support, family functioning and polygynous marriage. Design: We used cross-sectional data from a systematic random sample (n?=?1974) of mothers in semi-rural Kenya. Methods: Data were collected using validated scales and trained interviewers. Analyses were conducted using bootstrapped structural equation models and fixed-effects linear regression models, controlling for age and household wealth. Results: Reported experience of emotional abuse – both directly experienced and observed among household adults – was high in the present population (72.5% and 69%, respectively). Perceived stress among women was significantly higher if they were exposed to more emotional abuse during childhood (p?<?.001). Lower social support, worse family functioning and higher rates of polygynous marriage mediated pathways between emotional abuse exposure during childhood and adult perceived stress. Conclusion: Future research should investigate whether social integration, identity formation and self-esteem underlie observed dynamics in sub-Saharan Africa. Efforts to promote social integration and support should target children currently experiencing emotional abuse, and may include child-targeted high quality television programing and adult-targeted media and celebrity campaigns.
Journal of Anxiety, Stress, & Coping 09 September 2016 Michael L. Goodman, Claudia Gutarra, Katherine M. Billingsley, Philip H. Keiser & Stanley Gitari