Depressive and disruptive disorders and mental health service utilization in children and adolescents

Ping Wu, Christina W. Hoven, Hector R. Bird, Robert E. Moore, Patricia Cohen, Margarita Alegria, Mina K. Dulcan, Sherryl H. Goodman, Sarah Mccue Horwitz, Judith H. Lichtman, William E. Narrow, Donald S. Rae, Darrel A. Regier, Margaret T. Roper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

256 Scopus citations


Objective: To examine the relationship of depressive and disruptive disorders with patterns of mental health services utilization in a community sample of children and adolescents. Method: Data were from the NIMH Methods for the Epidemiology of Child and Adolescent Mental Disorders (MECA) Study. The sample consisted of 1,285 child (ages 9-17 years) and parent/guardian pairs. Data included child psychopathology (assessed by the Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children), impairment, child need and use of mental health services, and family socioeconomic status. Results: After adjusting for potential confounding factors, disruptive disorder was significantly associated with children's use of mental health services, but depressive disorder was not. For school-based services, no difference was found between the 2 types of disorders. Parents perceived greater need for mental health services for children with disruptive disorders than for those with depression. Conversely, depression was more related to children's perception of mental health service need than was disruptive disorder. Conclusions: The findings highlight the need for more effective ways to identify and refer depressed children to mental health professionals, the importance of improving school-based services to meet children's needs, and the necessity to better educate parents and teachers regarding the identification of psychiatric disorders, especially depression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1081-1090
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Depression
  • Disruptive disorder
  • Mental health service utilization
  • Perceived need
  • School-based services

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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