Mental Health Services Research

, Volume 6, Issue 3, pp 167–183 | Cite as

Children of Mothers Diagnosed with Serious Mental Illness: Patterns and Predictors of Service Use

  • Carol T. Mowbray
  • Lisa Lewandowski
  • Deborah Bybee
  • Daphna Oyserman


Children who have a parent diagnosed with a mental illness are at risk of psychiatric and behavioral problems; yet, these children do not necessarily receive needed services. Research has investigated correlates of child mental health service use, but not for these high-risk children. This study is part of an NIMH-funded, longitudinal investigation and describes child problems, service use, and predictors of service use for 506 children of 252 mothers diagnosed with serious mental illness. Mothers are primarily poor, minority women from urban areas. A multilevel-model approach is used to examine service use for multiple siblings in a family. More than one third of children had received services (from school or mental health agencies) in their lifetimes. Service use was predicted by child demographic characteristics (being male, non–African American, and older), social context variables (more negative life events, less financial satisfaction, and more parenting dissatisfaction), and maternal psychiatric variables (positively by high levels of case management receipt and affective diagnoses, negatively by maternal substance abuse history). In a subsample of “target children,” mothers' rating of child behavior problems additionally predicted service use. Implications of results for research and intervention are discussed.

children service utilization serious mental illness high-risk youth minority groups motherhood 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carol T. Mowbray
    • 1
  • Lisa Lewandowski
    • 1
  • Deborah Bybee
    • 2
  • Daphna Oyserman
    • 1
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.School of Social WorkUniversity of MichiganAnn Arbor
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyMichigan State UniversityEast Lansing
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of MichiganAnn Arbor
  4. 4.Institute for Social ResearchUniversity of MichiganAnn Arbor

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