Mental health service use among young children receiving pediatric primary care

John V. Lavigne*, Richard Arend, Diane Rosenbaum, Helen J. Binns, Katherine Kaufer Christoffel, B. S Andrew Burns, B. S Andrew Smith

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

99 Scopus citations


Objective: To investigate the factors associated with mental health service use among young children. Method: Five hundred ten preschool children aged 2 through 5 years were enrolled through 68 primary care physicians, with 388 (76% of the original sample) participating in a second wave of data collection, 12 to 40 months later. Consensus DSM-III-R diagnoses were assigned using best-estimate procedures. The test battery included the Child Behavior Checklist, a developmental evaluation, the Rochester Adaptive Behavior Inventory, and a videotaped play session (preschool children) or structured interviews (older children). At wave 2, mothers completed a survey of mental health services their child had received. Results: In logistic regression models, older children, children with a wave 1 DSM-III-R- diagnosis, children with more total behavior problems and family conflict, and children receiving a pediatric referral were more likely to receive mental health services. Among children with a DSM-III-R diagnosis, more mental health services were received by children who were older, white, more impaired, experiencing more family conflict, and referred by a pediatrician. Conclusions: Young children with more impairment and family conflict are more likely to enter into treatment. Services among young children of different races with diagnoses are not equally distributed. Pediatric referral is an important predictor of service use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1175-1183
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1998


  • Mental health service use
  • Preschool children
  • Psychopathology
  • Young children

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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