Family Type Predicts Mental Health Problems in Young Adults: A Survey of Students at a University in Botswana

Family types and mental health




Botswana, family type, mental health, young adults


In Africa, the structure of the family is changing rapidly. The effects of this change on mental health remain unknown. This study investigated the extent to which different family types (intact, single-mother, and multiple) predict mental health problems in young adults in Botswana (N = 264, mean age = 21.31, SD = 2.40). In a cross-sectional design, the study sampled students registered at various faculties at the University of Botswana. The revised symptoms checklist (SCL-90-R) was used to assess symptoms of mental health problems (depression, anxiety and hostility). Binary logistic regression analyses were performed to obtain odds ratios (ORs) and 95 per cent confidence intervals (CIs) of mental health problems for mother-only and multiple family types relative to the intact family type. Compared to the intact family type, single-mother (OR = 2.34; 95% CI: 1.21, 4.51) and multiple family types (OR = 1.56; CI: 0.88, 2.78) were associated with an increased risk of depression. For anxiety, the ORs were 2.27 (CI: 1.18, 4.38) and 1.10 (CI: 0.56, 1.82) for single-mother and multiple family types respectively. For hostility, the ORs were 2.60 (CI: 1.34, 5.04), and 0.79 (CI: 0.44, 1.42) for single-mother and multiple family types, respectively. Family types predict mental health problems in young adults and therefore the interventions to mitigate the effects should consider family backgrounds and the ramifications of family types for treatment and care.

Author Biographies

Boniface Kealeboga Ramotuana, University of Botswana

Department of Psychology

Kennedy Amone-P'Olak, University of the Witwatersrand

Department of Psychology