The Journal of Behavioral Health Services & Research

, Volume 40, Issue 1, pp 5-19

First online:

Race/Ethnicity, Parent-Identified Emotional Difficulties, and Mental Health Visits Among California Children

  • Jim E. BantaAffiliated withDepartment of Health Policy and Management, Loma Linda University School of Public Health Email author 
  • , Sigrid JamesAffiliated withDepartment of Social Work and Social Ecology, Loma Linda University School of Behavioral Health
  • , Mark G. HavilandAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry, Loma Linda University School of Medicine
  • , Ronald M. AndersenAffiliated withDepartment of Health Services, UCLA School of Public Health

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Variability in mental health services utilization by race/ethnicity was evaluated with a Behavioral Model approach. Subjects were 17,705 children 5 to 11 years of age in the 2005, 2007, and 2009 California Health Interview Surveys. Parents identified minor emotional difficulties in 18.7% of these children (ranging from 14.8% in Asians to 24.4% in African Americans) and definite or severe difficulties in 7.4% (5.5% in Asians to 9.7% in “other race”). Overall, 7.6% of children had at least one mental health visit in the prior year (2.3% in Asians to 11.2% in African Americans). Parent-identified need was the most salient predictor of mental health visits for all racial/ethnic groups. Beyond need, no consistent patterns could be determined across racial/ethnic groups with regard to the relationship between contextual, predisposing, and enabling measures and mental health service utilization. Different factors operated for each racial/ethnic group, suggesting the need for studies to examine mental health need, mental health service use, and determinants by racial/ethnic subgroup. These findings suggest that a “one-size-fits-all approach” with regard to policies and practices aimed at reducing mental health disparities will not be effective for all racial/ethnic groups.