Objective: We investigated the influence of race/ethnicity in diagnostic and disposition decision-making for children and adolescents presenting to an urban psychiatric emergency service (PES).
Method: Medical records were reviewed for 2991 child and adolescent African-American, Hispanic/Latino and white patients, treated in an urban PES between October 2001 and September 2002. A series of bivariate and binomial logistic regression analyses were used to delineate the role of race in the patterns and correlates of psychiatric diagnostic and treatment disposition decisions.
Results: Binomial logistic regression analyses reveal that African-American (OR=2.28, P<.001) and Hispanic/Latino (OR=2.35, P<.05) patients are more likely to receive psychotic disorders and behavioral disorders diagnoses (African American: OR=1.66, P<.001; Hispanic/Latino: OR=1.36, P<.05) than white children/adolescents presenting to PES. African-American youth compared to white youth are also less likely to receive depressive disorder (OR=0.78, P<.05), bipolar disorder (OR=.44, P<.001) and alcohol/substance abuse disorder (OR=.18, P<.01) diagnoses. African-American pediatric PES patients are also more likely to be hospitalized (OR=1.50, P<.05), controlling for other sociodemographic and clinical factors (e.g., Global Assessment of Functioning).
Conclusions: The results highlight that nonclinical factors such as race/ethnicity are associated with clinical diagnostic decisions as early as childhood suggesting the pervasiveness of such disparities.