Adverse life events and delinquent behavior among Kenyan adolescents: A cross-sectional study on the protective role of parental monitoring, religiosity, and self-esteem

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Article (peer-reviewed)

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Background: Past research provides strong evidence that adverse life events heighten the risk of delinquent behavior among adolescents. Urban informal (slum) settlements in sub-Saharan Africa are marked by extreme adversity. However, the prevalence and consequences of adverse life events as well as protective factors that can mitigate the effects of exposure to these events in slum settlements is largely understudied. We examine two research questions. First, are adverse life events experienced at the individual and household level associated with a higher likelihood of delinquent behavior among adolescents living in two slums in Nairobi, Kenya? Second, are parental monitoring, religiosity, and self-esteem protective against delinquency in a context of high adversity? Methods: We used cross-sectional data from 3,064 males and females aged 12–19 years who participated in the Transitions to Adulthood Study. We examined the extent to which a composite index of adverse life events was associated with delinquent behavior (measured using a composite index derived from nine items). We also examined the direct and moderating effects of three protective factors: parental monitoring, religiosity, and self-esteem. Results: Fifty-four percent of adolescents reported at least one adverse life event, while 18% reported three or more adverse events. For both males and females, adversity was positively and significantly associated with delinquency in bivariate and multivariate models. Negative associations were observed between the protective factors and delinquency. Significant adverse events × protective factor interaction terms were observed for parental monitoring (females and males), religiosity (males), and self-esteem (females). Conclusions: Similar to research in high income countries, adverse life events are associated with an increased likelihood of delinquent behavior among adolescents living in urban slums in Kenya, a low-income country. However, parental monitoring, religiosity, and self-esteem may moderate the effect of adversity on delinquent behavior and pinpoint possible avenues to develop interventions to reduce delinquency in resource-poor settings in low and middle income countries.






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