Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Intellectual Function of Socioeconomically Deprived ‘Street children’ in Quito, Ecuador
Extremely poor youths working and/or living unsupervised in urban environments are a common feature in many developing low and middle income countries. Such ‘street children’ may or may not be homeless, but all are inevitably vulnerable to exploitation and violence. Furthermore, there tends to be a high prevalence of substance abuse, particularly ‘glue sniffing’, among such populations. Despite this, little is known about their mental health or cognitive development. We performed a psychiatric and neuropsychological evaluation focusing on adverse life experiences, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance abuse and intellectual function, with 37 former street children attending a charitable project in Quito, Ecuador’s capital city. Results revealed that the children were characterized by moderate levels of substance abuse and high rates of PTSD. Furthermore, relatively higher cognitive function was significantly linked to both PTSD and to substance abuse. Possible interpretations for these counterintuitive observations are discussed.