Childhood internalizing behaviour: analysis and implications

J Psychiatr Ment Health Nurs. 2011 Dec;18(10):884-94. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2850.2011.01743.x. Epub 2011 May 20.


The concept of 'internalizing behaviour' reflects a child's emotional or psychological state and typically includes depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, somatic complaints and teenage suicide. Genetic and environmental causes have been largely implicated, although research continues to explore social etiological factors. Some research suggests females may be especially vulnerable to internalizing disorders, while data across ethnicities are somewhat variable. Regarding treatment, cognitive-behavioural therapies and use of pharmacological approaches (i.e. selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) have both shown great promise in reducing symptoms of internalizing disorders. However, given the role of the social environment, prevention programmes aimed at reducing exposure to drugs, violence/abuse and environmental toxins are highly important. Internalizing disorders are associated with a host of deleterious outcomes (e.g. school drop-out, substance use and potentially suicide) as well as psychopathological outcomes (e.g. co-morbid anxiety or depression, externalizing disorders - including suicide). Children with mental health problems suffer educationally and are more likely to become entangled in the justice and welfare systems. Clearly, early treatment and prevention programmes for internalizing disorders need to be a priority from a public health perspective as well as from a family and community perspective.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anxiety Disorders / diagnosis
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology
  • Anxiety Disorders / therapy
  • Child
  • Child Behavior / psychology*
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Cultural Characteristics
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder / prevention & control
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Ethnic Groups / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control*
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Mental Disorders / therapy*
  • Psychotropic Drugs / therapeutic use
  • Risk Factors
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Sex Distribution
  • Somatoform Disorders / diagnosis
  • Somatoform Disorders / psychology
  • Somatoform Disorders / therapy
  • Suicide / prevention & control


  • Psychotropic Drugs