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Minerva Pediatrics 2021 Sep 13

DOI: 10.23736/S2724-5276.21.06385-0


language: English

Therapeutic stays of Belarusian children in Italy: evaluation of their mental status, psychological consequences and physical health status

Pietro FERRARA 1 , Gaia PIANESE 1, Giulia FRANCESCHINI 1, Emanuele PALUMBO 2, Andrea IANNI 3, Giampaolo GHILARDI 4

1 Paediatric Unit, Campus Bio-Medico University, Rome, Italy; 2 Master of Science in Data Science, ETH Zürich, Switzerland; 3 Research Unit in Hygiene, Statistics and Public Health, Campus Bio-Medico University, Rome, Italy; 4 Institute of Philosophy of Scientific and Technological Practice, Campus Bio-Medico University of Rome, Rome, Italy


BACKGROUND: Therapeutic stays are a phenomenon of temporary reception of unaccompanied foreign children from contaminated areas in Belarus, Ukraine and Russia. Aim of the study was to analyze the physical and mental health status of children in therapeutic stays in Italy and the possible presence of a state of child abuse and neglect.
METHODS: The survey was conducted on a total of 55 children, 25 of which belonging to the treatment group composed of 25 Belarusian children in temporary stays in Italy, and the remaining 30 to the control group composed of 30 italian children. Data were collected between July, 2019 and July, 2020. The evaluation included a careful medical history, an accurate physical examination and an interview, focusing on several factors that can be use as indicators of child maltreatment, intended as physical and emotional neglect.
RESULTS: The survey was conducted on a total of 55 children, 25 of which belonging to the treatment group, and the remaining 30 to the control group. Of the 25 children in the treatment group, 8 (32%) are male and 17 (68%) are female, while of the 30 children in the control group, 14 (47%) are male and 16 are female (53%). For each child, we considered the body-mass index (BMI), the presence of dental caries, and the showing of learning disabilities or hypoacusis. These parameters can be used as indicators of child maltreatment. The analysis of BMI in the two groups shows that the BMI in the treatment group is significantly lower than the BMI in the control group (p=0.004). In the treatment group 7 (28%) children showed some form of caries whereas in the control group no forms of caries were detected. This result itself shows quite a relevant trend, and to have a quantitative measure of its statistical significancy, we performed a permutation test. The results show that the incidence of dental caries in the treatment group is significantly higher than in the control group (p=0.0023). We used the same procedure to analyse data on the presence of learning disabilities or hypoacusis. The p-values we obtained are not significant, but the results still seem to show that there might be a trend of a higher incidence of learning disabilities and hypoacusis in the treatment group, and an extensive study with a larger sample might shed more light on the topic.
CONCLUSIONS: This study shows that there are indications that suggest a higher risk of child maltreatment in the group of Belarusian children, where maltreatment is understood as physical and emotional neglect to which children are subjected in the institutions and in the group homes where they live. Despite showing only partially significant results, our work could be a starting point for more extensive studies on the topic. These future studies could be extended to other larger samples and other potential maltreatment factors could be evaluated.

KEY WORDS: Therapeutic stays; Child maltreatment; Child neglect; Health; Children

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