Differential Treatment of Orphaned Children in Lesotho

Rachel E. Goldberg, Brown University

In Southern Africa, adult HIV prevalence rates of between 19 and 33 percent are fueling concern about the welfare of the increasing number of children losing parents to the epidemic. Emerging evidence suggests that parental death is negatively associated with a range of child outcomes. Explanations for orphans’ differential disadvantage have clustered around three themes to date: biological affinity, household resource constraint, and investment in children with greater “endowments.” Drawing on over 120 in-depth interviews with caregivers, children, and key informants in Lesotho, I look for evidence consistent with these explanations as well as new understandings of the mechanisms underlying orphan differential treatment. Preliminary analyses support biological affinity and resource constraint as mechanisms, and provide additional nuance on the way they work and interact. Though there is little evidence of the “endowments” mechanism, the interviews suggest that “character” matters, as do community expectations regarding the fair treatment of children.

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Presented in Session 93: Generational Exchanges and Relationships: Grandparents and Grandchildren