Low-intensity violence and the social determinants of adolescent health among three East African pastoralist communities

Ivy L. Pike, Charles Hilton, Matthias Österle, Owuor Olungah

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Recently, strong pleas have emerged to place the health of adolescents on the global health agenda. To reposition adolescence front and center, scholars argue that we must work toward a richly contextualized approach that considers the role that social environments play in shaping the final stages of growth and development. We aim to contribute to this deeper understanding of the social determinants of global adolescent health by offering a case study of three nomadic pastoralist communities from northern Kenya. In addition to noteworthy political and economic marginalization, East African pastoralist communities also contend with chronic, low intensity intercommunity conflict. Data collected over five extensive visits from 2008 to 2011, include the 10–19 year olds from 215 randomly sampled Pokot, Samburu, and Turkana households. Using a case/control design, we sampled two sites per ethnic community: one directly affected and one less affected by intercommunity violence. Our nutritional findings indicate that teens ages 15–19 years old had significantly higher anthropometric values compared to younger teens. Living in a wealthier household is associated with greater height, body mass indices, and summed skinfolds for boys but not for girls. Anthropometric measures were influenced by household and community variation in the mixed-effects, multi-level regression models. The Self-Report Questionnaire (SRQ-20) was used to assess psychosocial health, with higher scores associated with living in a community directly affected by violence and having lost a loved one due to violence. Our findings highlight the unique nature of adolescent health challenges but also the central role even subtle differences across communities and households play in shaping young people's experiences. With few studies to document the lived experience of pastoralist youth as they move toward adulthood, examining how such challenging socioeconomic environment shapes health seems long overdue.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)117-127
Number of pages11
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
StatePublished - Apr 2018


  • Adolescent health
  • East Africa
  • Kenya
  • Nutrition
  • Pastoralism
  • Psychosocial health
  • Social determinants of health
  • Violence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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