Psychopathology and health care use among preschool children: A retrospective analysis

John V. Lavigne*, Helen J. Binns, Richard Arend, Diane Rosenbaum, Katherine Kaufer Christoffel, Jennifer R. Hayford, Robert D. Gibbons

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Objective: To examine the relationship between psychopathology and health care utilization beginning in the preschool (ages 2 to 5) years. Method: Five hundred ten preschool children were enrolled through 68 primary care physicians. The test battery used for diagnoses included the Child Behavior Checklist, a developmental evaluation, the Rochester Adaptive Behavior Inventory, and a videotaped play session. Consensus DSM-III-R diagnoses were assigned using best-estimate procedures. Frequency of primary care visits was established through 1-year retrospective record review; mothers estimated total visits and emergency department (ED) use. Results: Logistic regression models showed that a DSM-III-R diagnosis was related to increased ED use but not primary care or total visits. Greater functional impairment was associated with fewer primary care visits and more ED visits. Total, internalizing, and externalizing behavior problem scores were associated with increased primary care and total visits; ED visits were associated with increased total and internalizing problems. Child's health status consistently correlated with utilization. Conclusion: There is a consistent relationship between health care use and child psychopathology beginning in the preschool years.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)262-270
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1998


  • Child psychopathology
  • Health care utilization
  • Primary care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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