Barriers to Children's Mental Health Services

Pamela L. Owens, Kimberly Hoagwood, Sarah M. Horwitz, Philip J. Leaf, Jeanne M. Poduska, Sheppard G. Kellam, Nicholas S. Ialongo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To examine the characteristics associated with barriers to children's mental health services, focusing on the effect of children's psychosocial problems on parents. Method: Data come from a first-grade, prevention-intervention project conducted in Baltimore, Maryland. Analyses were restricted to 116 families who participated in seventh-grade interviews and indicated the index child needed services. The Services Assessment for Children and Adolescents was used to measure barriers to children's mental health services. Results: More than 35% of parents reported a barrier to mental health services. Types of barriers included those related to structural constraints, perceptions of mental health, and perceptions of services (20.7%, 23.3%, and 25.9%, respectively). Although parenting difficulties were associated with all barriers (structural: OR = 10.63, 95% CI: 2.37, 47.64; mental health: OR = 8.31, 95% CI: 1.99, 34.79; services: OR = 5.22, 95% CI: 1.56, 17.51), additional responsibilities related to attendance at meetings was associated only with structural barriers (OR = 5.49, 95% CI: 1.22, 24.59). Conclusions: Researchers and policymakers interested in increasing children's access to mental health services should consider strategies to reduce barriers related to perceptions about mental health problems and services, in addition to structural barriers. Particular attention should be given to programs that focus on the needs of families who are most affected by their child's psychosocial problems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)731-738
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2002


  • Barriers to care
  • Mental health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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