Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 25, Issue 6, pp 1926–1940 | Cite as

Mental Health Diagnostic Considerations in Racial/Ethnic Minority Youth

  • June Liang
  • Brittany E. Matheson
  • Jennifer M. Douglas
Original Paper


Misdiagnoses of racial/ethnic minority youth’s mental health problems can potentially contribute to inappropriate mental health care. Therefore, we conducted a systematic review that focuses on current theory and empirical research in an attempt to answer the following two questions: (1) What evidence exists that supports or contradicts the idea that racial/ethnic minority youth’s mental health problems are misdiagnosed? (2) What are the sources of misdiagnoses? Articles were reviewed from 1967 to 2014 using PsychINFO, PubMed, and GoogleScholar. Search terms included “race”, “ethnicity”, “minority”, “culture”, “children”, “youth”, “adolescents”, “mental health”, “psychopathology”, “diagnosis”, “misdiagnosis”, “miscategorization”, “underdiagnosis”, and “overdiagnosis”. Seventy-two articles and book chapters met criteria and were included in this review. Overall, evidence was found that supports the possibility of misdiagnosis of ethnic minority youth’s emotional and behavioral problems. However, the evidence is limited such that it cannot be determined whether racial/ethnic differences are due to differences in psychopathology, mental health biases, and/or inaccurate diagnoses. Cultural and contextual factors that may influence misdiagnosis as well as recommendations for research and practice are discussed.


Mental health diagnosis Racial/ethnic minority youth Disparities Culture Assessment Mental health care Psychotherapy 



We would like to thank Dr. May Yeh, Associate Professor at San Diego State University, for her mentorship and guidance in the preparation of this manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

We have no conflicts of interest to disclose.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • June Liang
    • 1
  • Brittany E. Matheson
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jennifer M. Douglas
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PediatricsUniversity of California, San DiegoLa JollaUSA
  2. 2.San Diego State University/University of California, San Diego Joint Doctoral Program in Clinical PsychologySan DiegoUSA

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