Increasing identification of psychosocial problems: 1979-1996

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OBJECTIVE: To examine the changes in identification of pediatric psychosocial problems from 1979 to 1996. RESEARCH DESIGN: Comparison of clinician-identified psychosocial problems and related risk factors among large primary care pediatric cohorts from 1979 (Monroe County Study) and 1996 (Child Behavior Study). Data were collected from clinician visit questionnaires developed originally for the 1979 study. SETTING: Private practice offices of 425 community-based pediatricians and family practitioners across both studies. PATIENTS: We enrolled all children from 4 to 15 years of age who presented for nonemergent services in primary care offices. The 1979 study included 9612 children seen by 30 clinicians and the 1996 study included 21 065 children seen by 395 clinicians. SELECTION PROCEDURE: Each clinician enrolled consecutive eligible patients for both studies. MEASUREMENTS AND RESULTS: From 1979 to 1996, clinician-identified psychosocial problems increased from 6.8% to 18. 7% of all pediatric visits among 4- to 15-year-olds. We found increases in all categories of psychosocial problems, except for mental retardation. Attentional problems showed the greatest absolute increase (1.4%-9.2%) and emotional problems showed the greatest relative increase (.2%-3.6%). The use of psychotropic medications, counseling, and referral also increased substantially. In particular, the percentage of children with Attention deficit/hyperactivity problems receiving medications increased from 32% to 78%. These increases in psychosocial problems were associated with increases in the proportions of single-parent families and Medicaid enrollment from 1979 to 1996. Changes in clinician characteristics did not appear to be the source of increases in clinician diagnoses of psychosocial problems. CONCLUSIONS: Substantial increases in the identification of psychosocial problems in primary care paralleled demographic changes in children presenting to primary care offices and in the larger population
Adolescent, Attention, Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity, Child, Child Behavior, Child Behavior Disorders, Child,Preschool, Comparison, Counseling, Drug Therapy, epidemiology, factors, Family, Female, Human, Male, Medicaid, Medicine, New York, patient, Patients, Pennsylvania, population, primary care, Private Practice, PROS, Questionnaires, Referral and Consultation, Research, Research Design, Risk, Risk Factors, Single Parent, statistics & numerical data, Support,Non-U.S.Gov't, Support,U.S.Gov't,P.H.S., Universities