Exposure to violence, presence of trauma symptoms and access to resilience promoting resources among children from two red-light areas in Mumbai, India
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Women in low-income prostitution are among the most disenfranchised groups in India. Preliminary studies suggest that children of women in prostitution, particularly when they reside in red-light areas, face considerable challenges to health, wellbeing and development. This study is a crucial, if initial step towards building a robust knowledgebase on children of women in prostitution in India. The objectives of this study concern the measurement and cross-group comparison of four key constructs, namely, exposure to violence, presence of trauma symptoms, presence of resilience promoting factors and caregiver socio-economic status among community-based and shelter-based children of ever-prostituted women and community-based children of never-prostituted women, from two red light areas in Mumbai, India. A cross-sectional survey design was used to meet the aforementioned study objectives. In-person survey interviews were conducted with: i) 47 community-based children (aged 13-17years) of ever-prostituted women (CB-EP); ii) 69 shelter-based children (aged 13-17 years) of ever-prostituted women (SB-EP); and iii) 30 community-based children (aged 13-17years) of never-prostituted women (CB-NP). Demographic data regarding 131 primary caregivers was collected and analyzed. Additionally, caregivers' household socio-economic status related data was analyzed for 116 of the 131 caregivers across the three study groups. Results suggest that children in the CB-EP group reported significantly higher risk of exposure to violence within and outside the home than children in the CB-NP group. While shelter-placement of children of ever-prostituted women reduced their exposure to violence within the home, children in the SB-EP group continued to experience significant exposure to violence in the shelter homes and at school. Children in the SB-EP group also reported the lowest access to resilience promoting factors at the individual, familial and community/contextual levels. Further, children of ever-prostituted women, irrespective of place of residence, were found to be at higher risk for negative mental health outcomes than children in the CB-NP group. Differences between ever prostituted and never prostituted groups on various socio-economic status indicators further highlight the role of structural factors in determining the life experiences of women in low-income prostitution and their children. Caregiver socio-economic status, across multiple economic domains, was found to be significantly lower among caregivers of children in the SB-EP group, possibly because placement of children occurred only under dire life or economic circumstances in this sample. Ownership of property was significantly lower among caregivers in the ever prostituted group, highlighting some of the structural disadvantages defining inter-generational poverty even in comparison to families who experience similar levels of income poverty. The findings from this study are consistent with findings from previous studies regarding vulnerability to children of women in prostitution to multiple forms of violence. Cross-group comparisons of exposure to violence, presence of trauma symptoms and access to factors promoting resilience provides fresh insights on nature and context of violence experienced and its impact on the mental health and emotional wellbeing of these children. Concurrent examination of access to resilience promoting factors sheds light on some of the strengths and limitations of current child protection initiatives. Further, multi-dimensional assessment and cross-group examination of caregiver SES highlights the nature as well as differences and similarities in the experience of inter-generational poverty among study participants.