OBJECTIVE : We examined several indicators of psychological health in a sample of orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) to determine if there were significant differences between those orphaned by
AIDS and those orphaned by other causes, and if there were gender differences. METHOD : Our sample consisted of 119 young children (ages 6–10 years) who participated in a non-governmental organisation (NGO)-supported social services programme in a low-resource, non-urban community in South Africa. We collected data on three groups: non-orphans (OVC1; n = 45); orphans due to AIDS (OVC2; n = 43); and other orphans (OVC3; n = 31). Parents of non-orphans and legal guardians of orphans rated their
children on a 112-item, age appropriate Child Behaviour Checklist (CBCL), South Africa version. RESULTS : Children in the OVC2 group were significantly different from their peers on Internalising
Problems and Somatic Complaints, while OVC3 group had a higher proportion of children in the at-risk range on Social Problems compared to OVC2. Females had elevated scores on the anxious/depressed, internalising problems, total problems, and sluggish cognitive tempo scales compared to males. There
was an interaction between factors, such that boys in OVC2 had elevated mean scores on Somatic Complaints. These findings suggest increased vulnerability for girls on emotional issues and for boys
on somatic problems.