Infants and Toddlers Left Behind: Mental Health Screening and Consultation in Primary Care
Objective: To determine (1) how child age relates to parent concerns about child behavior and (2) how child age and parent concerns correlate with provider referrals and family attendance at mental health consultant (MHC) appointments. Methods: Data were obtained from Rhode Island's Project, Linking Actions for Unmet Needs in Children's Health, in which universal developmental and behavioral screening and MHCs were embedded within primary care sites serving low-income diverse families. Children 9 months to 8 years of age were eligible for the study if they had a scheduled screening well-child visit in 2010 (N = 1451). Families completing screening and/or those referred for a MHC appointment were included in analyses (n = 700). Outcome measures included parent-reported concerns about child behavior, referral status following screening, and family attendance at the MHC appointment. Results: For every 1-month increase in child age, there was a 1.02 times increase in the likelihood of parent behavioral concern and a 1.04 times increase in the likelihood of mental health referral, even when controlling for child behavior. MHC-referred children older than 5 years were 2.61 times more likely to attend than children less than 5 years. When examining parent behavioral concerns and child age jointly, only concerns remained significant. Conclusions: Infants and toddlers, who have the highest rates of unmet mental health needs, may be least likely to benefit from universal screening and on-site MHC support. Efforts to incorporate behaviorally based screening tools and increase parent concerns where appropriate appear warranted, particularly for families with very young children.
Available from: Holly E Brophy-Herb
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ABSTRACT: To test the hypothesis that toddlers at highest risk for behavioral problems from the most economically vulnerable families will benefit most from maternal talk about emotions.
This study included 89 toddlers and mothers from low-income families. Behavioral problems were rated at 2 time points by masters-level trained Early Head Start home visiting specialists. Maternal emotion talk was coded from a wordless book-sharing task. Coding focused on mothers' emotion bridging, which included labeling emotions, explaining the context of emotions, noting the behavioral cues of emotions, and linking emotions to toddlers' own experiences. Maternal demographic risk reflected a composite score of 5 risk factors.
A significant 3-way interaction between Time 1 toddler behavior problems, maternal emotion talk, and maternal demographic risk (p = .001) and examination of slope difference tests revealed that when maternal demographic risk was greater, more maternal emotion talk buffered associations between earlier and later behavior problems. Greater demographic risk and lower maternal emotion talk intensified Time 1 behavior problems as a predictor of Time 2 behavior problems. The model explained 54% of the variance in toddlers' Time 2 behavior problems. Analyses controlled for maternal warmth to better examine the unique contributions of emotion bridging to toddlers' behaviors.
Toddlers at highest risk, those with more early behavioral problems from higher demographic-risk families, benefit the most from mothers' emotion talk. Informing parents about the use of emotion talk may be a cost-effective, simple strategy to support at-risk toddlers' social-emotional development and reduce behavioral problems.
Available from: Nicholas Mian
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ABSTRACT: Dissemination of prevention programs targeting young children is impeded by challenges with parent engagement. Matching program characteristics to parent preferences is associated with increased retention in clinical/intervention settings, but little is known about the types of prevention programs that interest parents. The objectives of this study were to better understand parents' preferences for services designed to prevent externalizing and anxiety disorders and to identify factors associated with preferences. Ethnically diverse, low-income caregivers (n = 485) of young children (11-60 months) completed surveys on child anxiety and externalizing symptoms, parental worry about their children, parent anxiety symptoms, and preferences for prevention group topics. Parents were more likely to prefer a group targeting externalizing behaviors compared to anxiety. Cluster analysis revealed four groups of children: low symptoms, moderate anxiety-low externalizing, moderate externalizing-low anxiety, and high anxiety and externalizing. Parents' preferences varied according to co-occurrence of child anxiety and externalizing symptoms; interest in a program targeting externalizing problems was associated with elevated externalizing problems (regardless of anxiety symptom level), parent anxiety symptoms, and parent worry about their child. Only parent anxiety symptoms predicted parents' interest in an anxiety-focused program, and preference for an anxiety-focused program was actually reduced if children had co-occurring anxiety and externalizing symptoms versus only anxiety symptoms. Results suggest that parents' interest in a program to prevent externalizing problems was well-aligned with the presenting problem, whereas preferences for anxiety programming suggest a more complex interplay among factors. Parent preferences for targeted programming are discussed within a broader framework of parent engagement.
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