Caregivers’ Perception of Mental Health Needs among Children of Different Racial/Ethnic Groups

Huey J. Chen, University of South Florida
Mary E. Evans
Roger Boothroyd

December 10-14, 2005 Philadelphia, PA


Purpose: To examine the relationship between race/ethnicity and caregivers' perceptions of child mental health and unmet need for mental health services (MHS). Much is written about health disparities with little attention to caregiver perceptions regarding whether their children need MHS that have not been provided or are receiving medications or services that are not needed or desired. Method: Using Dillman's mail survey method, data were obtained from caregivers of children in Florida's Medicaid program. Information on health/mental health was obtained by the Child Health Questionnaire subscale (CHQ), Pediatric Symptom Checklist (PSC) and reported use of services from 1998-2004. Included were 2576 children 5-21 who were reported to (1) need or use mental health services, (2) have a psychiatric disability, or (3) have a PSC score above 27; 65.5% were boys; 44.1% was White, 45.8%% Black, 7.0% Hispanic, and 3.0% other minorities. ANOVA was used to examine group differences. Results: Significant differences were found in unmet MHS, specifically in children less than 12. Black (32.2%) and Hispanic children (43.5%) had higher rates of unmet needs compared to Whites (22.0%). Results on unmet MHS and medication needs based on PSC scores will be presented along with perceptions regarding whether children received unwanted medications or services. Implications: Results indicate disparity in receiving MHS between Whites and children of color, suggesting the need to provide additional services particularly for younger minority children. Service providers should carefully attend to caregivers' perceptions of need. Learning Objectives: To describe a study of mental health disparities in children and adolescents To communicate the importance of obtaining and using caregivers' perceptions of the mental health service needs of their children