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Symptom Profiles and Mental Health Services Received Among Referred Adolescents

Abstract

Although it is known some youth access mental health services more readily than others, most service use studies used variable-centric approaches that produced heterogeneous groups and results that require parents and educators to understand diagnostic categories. Person-centered approaches group youth with similar patterns of behavioral and mental health concerns and thus are more homogenous and comparable to the presentation of behavioral and mental health problems noticed by parents and educators, who most typically facilitate access to care for those youth in need. We examined the behavioral and mental health symptom profiles, demographic characteristics and service use histories of youth referred for intervention in a multi-state, randomized controlled trial intervening in severe emotional/behavioral problems (n = 647; Kern et al. in Educ Treat Child 34(4):593–617, 2011). Latent profile analysis of parent-reported hyperactivity, aggression, and conduct, and adolescent-reported anxiety and depression on a broadband measure of student emotional and behavioral functioning was conducted. Model fit indices and theoretical interpretation supported five latent profiles; Class 1 showed severe externalizing behavior problems (7.18%, n = 45), Class 2 showed normative behaviors (37.78%, n = 237), Class 3 showed elevated internalizing behavior problems (12.76%, n = 80), Class 4 showed elevated externalizing behavior problems (33.01%, n = 207), and Class 5 showed elevated internalizing and externalizing behavior problems (9.25%, n = 58). We detected demographic and service use history difference between these profiles using multinomial logistic regression. Findings are discussed in relation to improving children’s mental health services, including universal screening, training emphasizing recognition and concern for internalizing behavior problems, and increased availability of mental health professionals in school settings.

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Acknowledgements

This research was supported by the Institute of Education Sciences, US Department of Education, Grant R324C080006, awarded to Lehigh University. Opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not represent views of the Institute or the Department of Education.

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This study was funded by the Institute of Education Sciences, US Department of Education, Grant R324C080006.

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Correspondence to Joni W. Splett.

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Splett, J.W., George, M.W., Zaheer, I. et al. Symptom Profiles and Mental Health Services Received Among Referred Adolescents. School Mental Health 10, 96–110 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12310-017-9244-1

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Keywords

  • Mental health service use
  • Children’s mental health
  • Internalizing behavior problems
  • Latent profile analysis
  • Person-centered approaches