Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

, Volume 41, Issue 6, pp 865–877 | Cite as

The Interim Service Preferences of Parents Waiting for Children’s Mental Health Treatment: A Discrete Choice Conjoint Experiment

  • Charles E. CunninghamEmail author
  • Yvonne Chen
  • Ken Deal
  • Heather Rimas
  • Patrick McGrath
  • Graham Reid
  • Ellen Lipman
  • Penny Corkum


Parents seeking help for children with mental health problems are often assigned to a waiting list. We used a discrete choice conjoint experiment to model preferences for interim services that might be used while waiting for the formal assessment and treatment process to begin. A sample of 1,059 parents (92 % mothers) seeking mental health services for 4 to 16 year olds chose between hypothetical interim services composed by experimentally varying combinations of the levels of 13 interim service attributes. Latent Class analysis yielded a four–segment solution. All segments preferred interim options helping them understand how agencies work, enhancing their parenting knowledge and skill, and providing an opportunity to understand or begin dealing with their own difficulties. The Group Contact segment (35.1 %) preferred interim services in meetings with other parents, supported by phone contacts, frequent checkup calls, and wait–time updates. Virtual Contact parents (29.2 %) preferred to meet other parents in small internet chat groups supported by e–mail contact. Membership in this segment was linked to higher education and computer skills. Frequent Contact parents (24.4 %) preferred face–to–face interim services supported by weekly progress checks and wait time updates. Limited Contact parents (11.3 %) were less intent on using interim services. They preferred to pursue interim services alone, with contacts by phone, supported by fewer check–up calls and less frequent wait time updates. All segments were more likely to enroll in interim services involving their child.


Waiting lists Children’s mental health Parents Preferences Discrete choice conjoint experiment 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Charles E. Cunningham
    • 1
    • 6
    Email author
  • Yvonne Chen
    • 1
  • Ken Deal
    • 4
  • Heather Rimas
    • 1
  • Patrick McGrath
    • 2
    • 3
  • Graham Reid
    • 5
  • Ellen Lipman
    • 1
  • Penny Corkum
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry, Behaviours & NeurosciencesMcMaster UniversityHamiltonCanada
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyDalhousie UniversityHalifaxCanada
  3. 3.Departments of Pediatrics and PsychiatryIWK Health CentreHalifaxCanada
  4. 4.Department of International Marketing and Health Services ManagementMcMaster UniversityHamiltonCanada
  5. 5.Departments of Psychology, Family Medicine, and PediatricsThe University of Western Ontario and the Children’s Health Research InstituteLondonCanada
  6. 6.Hamilton Health SciencesHamiltonCanada

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