Help seeking for emotional and behavioural problems in children and adolescents: a review of recent literature

Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2003 Aug;12(4):153-61. doi: 10.1007/s00787-003-0322-6.


In order to understand the discrepancy between rates of child and adolescent psychopathology and rates of mental health service use, variables influencing the help-seeking process need to be investigated. The present article aims to extend and refine previous findings by reviewing 47 recent empirical studies on parental and adolescent problem recognition and help seeking, and problem recognition by the general practitioner (GP). Several variables (child age, the presence of medical and school-related problems, informal help seeking, past treatment of parents or relatives, family size, and type of maltreatment) were discovered to influence parental/adolescent problem recognition and/or help seeking,while refinements were found for the effects of type of psychopathology, child gender, adolescent attitudes and personality, parental psychopathology, social support, and sociodemographic variables. Although recent studies uncovered several determinants of problem recognition by the GP (child gender, age, past treatment, academic problems, family composition, life events, type of visit, and acquaintance with child), this aspect of the help-seeking pathway remains relatively uncharted and, therefore, needs to be the focus of future research.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Affective Symptoms / diagnosis*
  • Affective Symptoms / psychology
  • Child
  • Child Behavior Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Child Behavior Disorders / psychology
  • Family Characteristics
  • Humans
  • Mental Health Services / statistics & numerical data
  • Parent-Child Relations
  • Parents
  • Physicians, Family / statistics & numerical data
  • Psychopathology