The Role of Stigma in Parental Help-Seeking for Perceived Child Behavior Problems in Urban, Low-Income African American Parents

J Clin Psychol Med Settings. 2015 Dec;22(4):265-78. doi: 10.1007/s10880-015-9433-8.


Significant numbers of children have diagnosable mental health problems, but only a small proportion of them receive appropriate services. Stigma has been associated with help-seeking for adult mental health problems and for Caucasian parents. The current study aims to understand factors, including stigma, associated with African American parents' help-seeking behavior related to perceived child behavior problems. Participants were a community sample of African American parents and/or legal guardians of children ages 3-8 years recruited from an urban primary care setting (N = 101). Variables included child behavior, stigma (self, friends/family, and public), object of stigma (parent or child), obstacles for engagement, intention to attend parenting classes, and demographics. Self-stigma was the strongest predictor of help-seeking among African American parents. The impact of self-stigma on parents' ratings of the likelihood of attending parenting classes increased when parents considered a situation in which their child's behavior was concerning to them. Findings support the need to consider parent stigma in the design of care models to ensure that children receive needed preventative and treatment services for behavioral/mental health problems in African American families.

Keywords: African American; Child behavior; Early childhood; Parent help-seeking; Parenting.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • African Americans / psychology*
  • African Americans / statistics & numerical data
  • Child
  • Child Behavior Disorders / psychology
  • Child Behavior Disorders / therapy*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / psychology*
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Poverty / psychology*
  • Poverty / statistics & numerical data
  • Prejudice / psychology
  • Prejudice / statistics & numerical data
  • Stereotyping*
  • Urban Population / statistics & numerical data