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Keywords:

  • institutional dynamics;
  • learning disabilities;
  • mental health settings;
  • rehabilitation

Accessible summary

  • The findings from this study reveal a significantly higher prevalence of neurological and intellectual disabilities as well as epilepsy among adolescents residing in a social welfare/juvenile justice institution in Nigeria compared with a cohort of school going adolescents. Epilepsy and neurological deficits was particularly prevalent among adolescents admitted into the institution as victims of neglect compared with those brought in as offenders.
  • Stigmatization of and social prejudices against children with neuro-psychiatric disabilities and epilepsy as well as lack of support for their caregivers in Nigeria was speculated as the key factor promoting neglect of such children. The speculation was based on the findings from this study and extant literature. Consequently, efforts should be geared towards disengaging childhood epilepsy and neuro-psychiatric disabilities from myth and prejudices and to provide needed support for caregivers of children with such conditions. Meanwhile curative and restorative neuro-psychiatric services should be part of the service package for children within social welfare/juvenile justice institutions in Nigeria.

Abstract

A total of 67 adolescents from a juvenile remand home were matched with 67 other adolescents by age and gender, with a view to determine the prevalence and spectrum of neurological and intellectual disabilities. Intelligence quotient (IQ) was estimated using an adapted version of the Slosson's Intelligence Test and a full neurological evaluation was carried out. The mean IQ score for the remand home participants was significantly lower than the controls (77 ± 11 vs. 99 ± 14; t = 1.6, P = 0.001). Almost half (46.7%) of the participants in the remand home had intellectual disability of varying degrees, including borderline intellectual functioning, compared with only two (3.3%) of the comparison group (P < 0.001). Epilepsy and neurological deficits were significantly more prevalent among the remand home group, particularly those admitted as victims of neglect, compared with the comparison group (P ≤ 0.02). These findings and recent literature were used to speculate the possible underlying factors. Policy implications for child social welfare in Nigeria were suggested.