Saturday 7 February 2015

Over a third of US children will have a behavioural / emotional disorder by 16 years of age

I had to do a second-take when it came to the clinical report from Carol Weitzman and colleagues [1] (open-access here) talking about promoting 'optimal development'  and "the need to increase behavioral screening" when it comes to the children and youth of the United States.

The title of this post kinda said it all derived from the sentence: "Between 37% and 39% of children will have a behavioral or emotional disorder diagnosed by 16 years of age, regardless of geographic location in the United States." The data behind that sentence by the way is based on studies like the one from Costello and colleagues [2].

Accepting issues related for example, to how wide we cast the diagnostic net in terms of the clinical descriptions we use and the idea of 'medicalising childhood', it is indeed a sombre statistic that approaching 40% of young people carry at least one label with them. I've blogged before about other cohorts - the Pelotas birth cohort for example - examined for the presence of any psychiatric diagnosis, but the Weitzman calculations doesn't even come close to in comparison (37-39% vs. 13%).

I'll leave you with another excerpt from the Weitzman paper:

"Behavioral and emotional problems are common, persistent, and cause significant functional impairment for many children and adolescents. A 2- to 4-year window may exist between initial presentation of symptoms and the development of a disorder, suggesting an opportunity to intervene before problems become more serious in children."

I struggle to disagree.

Music: Echo and the Bunnymen - The Killing Moon.


[1] Weitzman C. et al. Promoting Optimal Development: Screening for Behavioral and Emotional Problems. Pediatrics. 2015. Jan 26.

[2] Costello EJ. et al. Prevalence and development of psychiatric disorders in childhood and adolescence. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2003 Aug;60(8):837-44.

---------- Carol Weitzman, Lynn Wegner, & et al (2015). Promoting Optimal Development: Screening for Behavioral and Emotional Problems Pediatrics : 10.1542/peds.2014-3716

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