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Parental Concern May Indicate Child's Mental Illness

When parents are worried, children have a 50-50 chance of having psychiatric disorder

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 28 (HealthDay News) -- Parental concern about a child's mental health may be a sign that the child does indeed have a psychiatric disorder, according to a study in the Dec. 17 issue of the British Medical Journal.

Tamsin Ford, an MRC clinician scientist with King's College, London, and colleagues selected a nationally representative sample of 10,438 children ages 5-15. The parents were asked to complete the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire, which measures levels of distress and related impairment in family life, peer relationships, academic functioning and leisure activities.

The researchers found that when parents reported concerns about their child's mental health, the child had a 50-50 chance of having a psychiatric disorder and that the predictive power was particularly high when parents and teacher both expressed concerns.

"Although child mental health services are being expanded, they inevitably focus on children with the most severe levels of difficulty," the authors conclude. "Children with lesser, but still troubling, levels of psychopathology may benefit from self help approaches or contact with the voluntary sector."

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