Study Shows Prevelance of Mental Disorders Among American Kids

Filed under: In The News, Expert Advice: Toddlers & Preschoolers, Expert Advice: Big Kids, Expert Advice: Tweens, Expert Advice: Teens

The numbers may seem surprising: A new study finds that about 13 percent of American kids have at least one mental disorder (including ADHD, anxiety, depression, eating disorders and conduct disorder), but only half of those kids are getting treatment.

The researchers found that 8.6 percent of children surveyed had ADHD, 3.7percent had mood disorders, 2.1percent had conduct disorder, 0.7 percent had panic disorder or generalized anxiety disorder and 0.1percent had eating disorders. Boys showed a 2.1 times greater prevalence of ADHD than girls, while girls had twofold higher rates of mood disorders than boys. There were no gender differences in the rates of anxiety or conduct disorders.

This study of mental disorders among U.S. children was recently published in the journal Pediatrics. It analyzed data from psychological diagnoses of 3,042 participants (8 to 15 years of age) from surveys conducted from 2001 to 2004. The data was derived through structured diagnostic interviews done by lay interviewers -- not by psychologists -- to assess psychiatric diagnoses of children and adolescents.

The study concludes that "these data constitute a first step in building a national database on mental health in children and adolescents."

It can be puzzling for parents to know just what this data means. Are large numbers of American kids in need of mental help, with many more than we realize in need of diagnosis? Or are we still defining the boundaries that separate some mental disorders from the developmental challenges of childhood?

Related: Michael Phelps' Mom Talks About ADHD, Behavior Therapy for ADHD

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.