Mental, behavioral and developmental disorders in childhood often carry over to adulthood and are associated with an increased risk for poor school outcomes, adverse health conditions and earlier mortality. It is alarming, therefore, that a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study found that one in seven U.S. children ages 2 to 8 experiences a psychological disorder.
The study, published March 11 in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, was based on data gathered from the parents of 35,000 children ages 2 to 8 involved in the 2011 to 2012 National Survey of Children’s Health. The researchers collected information about the children’s speech or language problems, learning difficulties, behavioral problems, depression and anxiety. They also asked about attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorder, Tourette syndrome and developmental delays.
Findings showed that children with mental, behavioral and developmental disorders were less likely to have access to continuous, comprehensive and coordinated medical care. In addition, children who lived in poverty and who had parents with mental health issues were at a greater risk for psychological problems.
The research team found that boys were more affected by psychological problems than girls. They also found that children in non-English speaking homes were at greatest risk for psychological disorders. “Speaking English is either an indicator of assimilation into a culture and/or a sign of better access to healthcare,” lead researcher Jennifer Kaminski, PhD, team leader for child development studies at the CDC, told HealthDay.
“We are not able to say if these risk factors are caused by or [are] causing the disorders, but they are important for children’s health,” Kaminski added.
The study also revealed that the incidence of disorders varied by state. For example, California had the lowest number at 10.6 percent, while it was nearly twice as high in Arkansas and Kentucky. Washington, D.C. had the highest rate of poor parental mental health.
The study authors recommended that health officials, schools, and community leaders partner with public health agencies to address the issues. “Based on the number of kids affected, this is something we need to pay attention to,” noted Kaminski.
Eugene Grudnikoff, MD, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at South Oaks Hospital in Amityville, N.Y., agreed. It is critical that communities and legislators heed the recommendations of this report to invest in more “effective collaboration among governmental, private and other agencies responsible for providing services to children,” he told HealthDay.