The effects of exposure to violent events in adolescence have not been sufficiently studied in middle-income countries such as Brazil. The aims of this study are to investigate the prevalence of psychiatric disorders among 12-year-olds in two neighborhoods with different socioeconomic status (SES) levels in São Paulo and to examine the influence of previous violent events and SES on the prevalence of psychiatric disorders.
Students from nine public schools in two neighborhoods of São Paulo were recruited. Students and parents answered questions about demographic characteristics, SES, urbanicity and violent experiences. All participants completed the Kiddie Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia (K-SADS) to obtain DSM-IV diagnoses. The data were analyzed using weighted logistic regression with neighborhood stratification after adjusting for neighborhood characteristics, gender, SES and previous traumatic events.
The sample included 180 individuals, of whom 61.3% were from low SES and 39.3% had experienced a traumatic event. The weighted prevalence of psychiatric disorders was 21.7%. Having experienced a traumatic event and having low SES were associated with having an internalizing (adjusted OR = 5.46; 2.17-13.74) or externalizing disorder (adjusted OR = 4.33; 1.85-10.15).
Investment in reducing SES inequalities and preventing violent events during childhood may improve the mental health of youths from low SES backgrounds.