Modeling the Information Preferences of Parents of Children with Mental Health Problems: A Discrete Choice Conjoint Experiment

  • Charles E. CunninghamEmail author
  • Ken Deal
  • Heather Rimas
  • Don H. Buchanan
  • Michelle Gold
  • Katherine Sdao-Jarvie
  • Michael Boyle


Although materials informing parents about children’s mental health (CMH) problems can improve outcomes, we know relatively little about the design factors that might influence their utilization of available resources. We used a discrete choice conjoint experiment to model the information preferences of parents seeking mental health services for 6 to 18 year olds. Parents completed 30 choice tasks presenting experimentally varied combinations of 20 four-level CMH information content, transfer process, and outcome attributes. Latent class analysis revealed three segments with different preferences. Parents in the Action segment (43%) chose materials providing step-by-step solutions to behavioral or emotional problems. They preferred weekly meetings with other parents and coaching calls from a therapist. The Information segment (41%) chose materials helping them understand rather than solve their child’s problems. These parents were more sensitive to logistical factors such as receiving information in groups, the location where information was available, the modality in which the information was presented, and the time required to obtain and use the information. The Overwhelmed segment (16%) reported more oppositional and conduct problems, felt their children’s difficulties exerted a greater adverse impact on family functioning, and reported higher personal depression scores than those in the Action or Information segments. Nonetheless, they did not choose information about, or solutions to, the problems their children presented. Simulations predicted that maximizing utilization and realizing the potential benefits of CMH information would require knowledge transfer strategies consistent with each segment’s preferences.


Conjoint analysis Children’s mental health information Parent preferences 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Charles E. Cunningham
    • 1
    • 6
    Email author
  • Ken Deal
    • 2
  • Heather Rimas
    • 1
  • Don H. Buchanan
    • 3
  • Michelle Gold
    • 4
  • Katherine Sdao-Jarvie
    • 5
  • Michael Boyle
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural NeurosciencesMcMaster UniversityHamiltonCanada
  2. 2.Strategic Market Leadership and Health Services ManagementMcMaster UniversityHamiltonCanada
  3. 3.Hamilton Health Sciences CorporationHamiltonCanada
  4. 4.Department of Clinical Epidemiology and BiostatisticsMcMaster UniversityHamiltonCanada
  5. 5.Peel Children’s CentreMississaugaCanada
  6. 6.McMaster Children’s HospitalHamiltonCanada

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