Screening parents during child evaluations: Exploring parent and child psychopathology in the same clinic

Hilary B. Vidair, Jazmin A. Reyes, Sa Shen, Maria A. Parrilla-Escobar, Charlotte M. Heleniak, Ilene L. Hollin, Scott Woodruff, J. Blake Turner, Moira A. Rynn

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45 Scopus citations


Objective: Children of depressed and/or anxious parents are at increased risk for developing psychiatric disorders. Little research has focused on screening parents bringing their children for psychiatric evaluation, and few studies have included fathers or Hispanic children. This study had the following aims: 1) to identify current symptom rates in parents bringing their children for evaluation; and 2) to determine whether parental symptoms were associated with children's symptoms, diagnoses, and functioning. Method: The sample included 801 mothers, 182 fathers, and 848 children (aged 6 through 17 years). The majority (55.66%) were Hispanic, who attended a child and adolescent psychiatric evaluation service. Parent and child symptoms were assessed via parental reports. Children's diagnoses and functioning were determined by clinicians. Multiple regression analyses were used to determine whether severity of parental symptoms was associated with clinical child variables adjusting for child and parent demographic variables. Results: In all, 18.80% of mothers and 18.42% of fathers reported elevated internalizing symptoms. Maternal symptoms were significantly associated with problems in children's functioning and children's anxiety, depression, and oppositional/conduct diagnoses; but not attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Adjusting for parental and child demographics had a reduction on the effect of maternal symptoms on child depression. Paternal symptoms and functioning were positively associated with children's diagnoses, but the associations were smaller and not significant. Both parents' symptoms were significantly associated with children's internalizing and externalizing symptoms. However, these significant effects were not moderated by marital status or child ethnicity. Conclusions: This study highlights the importance of screening parents when their children receive a psychiatric evaluation. The findings support the development of mental health services that address psychiatric needs of the entire family within one clinical setting.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)441-450
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2011


  • child psychiatric evaluation
  • parent screening


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