Methods: Data from a National Institute of Health (NIH) funded randomized experiment for orphaned children, known as Bridges to the Future was analyzed. Participants (11-17 years) were randomly assigned to either the control condition receiving usual care services for orphaned children or the treatment condition receiving usual care services plus a savings-led family-based economic strengthening intervention, combined with financial management and microenterprise development workshops, and a mentorship component. Non-kin support networks were measured at 12-months post intervention initiation by: 1) identification of a supportive non-kin tie, 2) type of relationship, 3) frequency of contact, 4) time of receiving support, and 5) type of support received from non-kin ties. Data from a total of 1321 adolescents (girls = 732 and boys =589) who responded to the 12-months follow-up assessment were analyzed. Bivariate analyses were conducted to examine the gender differences, and binary logistic regression analyses were conducted to examine the effect of gender on each of the indicators of non-kin support networks, controlling for participants’ characteristics and the intervention.
Results: Findings indicate that orphaned girls were more likely than orphaned boys to identify a supportive non-kin tie (X2 =32.5, p<.001), identify the Bridges intervention as a source of support (X2 =15.5, p<.001), and receiving support from a non-kin tie after joining the Bridges intervention (X2 =16.4, p<.001). In addition, results from logistic regression analyses revealed that boys had significantly lower odds of identifying supportive non-kin ties (OR=.88, 95% CI =.56, 1.21, p<.001) relative to girls. Moreover, among those who identified supportive non-kin ties, boys had lower odds of identifying the Bridges interventionas a source of support (OR= -.88, 95% CI = -1.21, -.56, p<.001), receiving support from non-kin ties prior to joining the Bridges intervention (OR= -.18, 95% CI = -.36, -.05, p<.05), receiving both financial/material support (OR= -.16, 95% CI = -.28, -.04, p<.01), and nonmaterial support from non-kin ties (OR= -.35, 95% CI =-.59, -.12, p<.01).
Implications: Findings from this study point to the need for programs that work to support orphaned children and their families help to identify and strengthen the capacity of non-kin relationships available to orphaned children. Such relationships may be instrumental in enabling orphaned children, especially girls, to carry out their caregiving roles and household responsibilities effectively without jeopardizing their own wellbeing.