Racial/ethnic Disparities in the Mental Health Care Utilization of Fifth Grade Children
Published in: Academic Pediatrics, v. 9, no. 2, Mar. 2009, p. 89-96
Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2008
OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to examine racial/ethnic differences in fifth grade children's mental health care utilization. METHODS: The authors analyzed cross-sectional data from a study of 5147 fifth graders and their parents in 3 US metropolitan areas from 2004-06. Multivariate logistic regression was used to examine racial/ethnic differences in mental health care utilization. RESULTS: Nine percent of parents reported that their child had ever used mental health care services; fewer black (6%) and Hispanic (8%) children had used services than white children (14%). Fewer black and Hispanic children with recent symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, and conduct disorder, and fewer black children with symptoms of depression had ever utilized services compared with white children. In multivariate analyses controlling for demographic factors, parental mental health, social support, and symptoms of the 4 mental health conditions, we found that black children were less likely than white children to have ever used services (Odds ratio [OR] 0.3, 95% confidence interval [95% CI], 0.2-0.4, P < .001). The odds ratio for black children remained virtually unchanged when the analysis was restricted to children with symptoms of =1 mental health condition, and when the analysis was stratified by mental health condition. The difference in utilization for Hispanic compared with white children was fully explained by sociodemographics in all multivariate models. CONCLUSIONS: Disparities exist in mental health care utilization for black and Hispanic children; the disparity for black children is independent of sociodemographics and child mental health need. Efforts to reduce this disparity may benefit from addressing not only access and diagnosis issues, but also parents' help-seeking preferences for mental health care for their children.