Objective: This study describes the distribution of children and adolescents in psychiatric inpatient and outpatient facilities and identifies factors associated with the selection of individuals into inpatient versus outpatient care. SAMPLE DATA: The data are from a 1986 nationally representative sample surveyed by the National Institute of Mental Health.
Results: Results indicate that the vast majority of children and adolescents with psychiatric problems receive outpatient treatment rather than inpatient care. Factors that predict psychiatric hospitalization rather than outpatient care are (1) public or private insurance coverage versus no insurance; (2) previous hospitalization; (3) psychiatric diagnosis of affective or psychotic disorders versus conduct disorders, adjustment disorders, drug and alcohol abuse, and other disorders; and (4) age, with adolescents more likely to be hospitalized than children.
Conclusions: Further research is needed to explore the role of insurance in mental health sorting processes. Moreover, systematic, controlled research is needed to determine how different financing strategies affect mental health outcomes for children and adolescents.