Perception of primary care pediatricians of effectiveness, acceptability, and availability of mental health services

J Child Health Care. 2015 Jun;19(2):195-205. doi: 10.1177/1367493513503585. Epub 2013 Oct 15.


Approximately 20% of children in the United States meet the criteria for a psychosocial disorder; however, less than 25% of these children receive psychosocial services. A questionnaire assessed primary care pediatricians' (PCPs) perceptions of effectiveness, availability, and burden of treatment options for children's psychosocial difficulties and parents' acceptance and adherence with these treatments. Repeated measures analysis of variance found that PCPs are more likely to refer children with psychosocial problems to a mental health professional than to prescribe medication. PCPs prescribe medications more than counseling parents themselves or watchful waiting. PCPs reported children's behavior is more likely to improve with mental health services than with medication, though medication is the most available treatment. PCPs believe parent training programs are very effective for treating children's behavior problems, but believe parents are more accepting and compliant with other treatments. Findings indicate PCPs' perceptions of availability and acceptability of treatment options drive their treatment recommendations of psychosocial problems.

Keywords: Child; developmental and behavioral difficulties; mental health referrals; primary health care.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Child
  • Child Behavior / psychology
  • Counseling
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health Services / supply & distribution*
  • Parents / psychology
  • Pediatrics*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States