Background. Collective violence attributed to organized crime has shown to be responsible for a considerable burden of physical and mental health morbidity among youth.
Objective. To compare the emotional and behavioral problems of children exposed to early childhood poverty and/or collective violence in communities at the Mexico-United States border to children exposed to other social and health risks.
Method. A cross-sectional study was carried out with individuals living in poverty at two sites at the Mexico-United States border. Individuals who responded once to the Pictorial Child Behavior Checklist (P+CBCL) in Spanish were selected randomly from clinics in a metropolitan area of El Paso, Texas, United States (poverty alone group), and Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico (poverty plus collective violence group). In addition, emotional and behavioral problems present in these groups were compared with available published emotional and behavioral CBCL scales of children exposed to other social and health risks.
Results. Children exposed to both poverty and collective violence had higher emotional and behavioral problem scores as measured by the P+CBCL than those exposed to poverty alone. In addition, compared with children who were brain-injured, hearing impaired, or whose parents were exposed to drugs or alcohol, the poverty and collective violence group had higher levels of emotional and behavioral problems.
Discussion and Conclusion. Systematic detection and treatment of children as young as 18 months exposed to trauma are necessary to diminish the mental health problems caused by the collective violence attributed to organized crime.