Screening for psychosocial issues in children
Hayutin, Lisa G.
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Mental health problems in children are rising, and largely go undetected by their pediatricians. The Pediatric Symptom Checklist (PSC) is a behavioral screening instrument that has successfully improved pediatricians’ detection of psychosocial problems in children. This study sought to extend our understanding of the use of instruments such as the PSC in several ways. First, it examined the effects of using the PSC on parent-pediatrician communication about psychosocial issues during regular medical visits. Second, the study introduced a modified, parent-scored version of the PSC aimed at improving parents’ involvement in and understanding of the questionnaire. Third, the effects of the interventions on parents’ internal motivation, intention to adhere to pediatricians recommendations, and satisfaction with the visit were examined. Six primary care pediatricians and six pediatric gastroenterologists participated in the study. A randomized block design was used to assign pediatricians to one of three experimental conditions: the Standard PSC condition, the Modified PSC condition, or the Control condition. One hundred and seventy four parents of children ages 4-16 who were attending regular medical appointments participated in the study. Results indicated that, for children with more emotional and behavioral problems, both the Standard and Modified versions of the PSC improved parent-pediatrician communication about psychosocial issues. Parents in the Standard group expressed significantly less intention to adhere to recommendations than those in the Modified and Control groups, and there was a trend suggesting that parents in the Modified condition were more internally motivated to follow through with pediatrician recommendations. Satisfaction was not significantly impacted by the intervention.