Are the needs of young children driving what health services are offered? New research shows what is needed is not what drives what is available. Researchers say specifically the mental health needs of young children are not being met.
Researchers from Yale University School of Medicine conducted a study to look at the physical, developmental and mental health needs of children. Study authors wanted to determine whether different factors predicted parental recognition of mental health problems in children. They also wanted to see if mental health problems elicit service use in the same way as physical health or developmental problems.
For the research, study authors surveyed parents of children in Connecticut. The parents answered several questions about their family sociodemographics status. They also rated their children's physical health and developmental health. Finally, they answered questions about depression and their child's social development.
Study authors say there are a number of factors related to problem recognition, defined as thinking about seeking a service or talking to a professional about a problem. Interestingly, researchers report mental health problems were not discussed with professionals at the same rate as physical health or developmental problems. They also found the rates of service use in all three categories vary dramatically.
Researchers conclude factors other than need influence which services are used. They say one explanation is parents have a better understanding of age-appropriate physical and developmental milestones than the norms for behavioral health issues. Researchers feel pediatricians need to be trained to identify, treat or refer children with mental health problems. If not, study authors say the needs of these kids will continue to be underserved.