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Prevalence estimates of childhood and adolescent mental health disorders appear to vary between 20 to 30% worldwide. It is therefore unsurprising that studies have yielded inconsistent findings in regards to the trends of prevalence of mental health disorders. Some reasons for the discrepancy in findings include use of survey data and its associated attrition and selection bias.
Objectives and aims
First, to determine and compare the prevalence of mental health disorders derived from a survey and a population cohort. Second, to evaluate trends of mental health prevalence over time.
As population data (i.e., linked health records) may be used to overcome the issues presented by survey data, we compared the prevalence estimated from a prospective survey cohort (the Western Australian Pregnancy Cohort (Raine study) to another estimate from a prospective population cohort (linked population data; data from the Hospital Morbidity Records and Mental Health Registration).
As expected, the Raine cohort yielded a larger estimate of prevalence when compared to the linked population data. However each cohort also revealed opposite trends of prevalence, where the Raine cohort showed the prevalence of mental health disorders to decrease as children age.
We therefore recommend that estimates of prevalence be interpreted with the type of cohort in mind, as estimates from survey cohorts will provide different information to that from population cohorts.
Children of parents with psychiatric disorders are at risk of poor outcomes. However, there is limited evidence regarding the relationship between parental psychiatric disorders and child school readiness, which is linked to later academic achievement. This study aims to investigate these relationships and broaden the evidence underlying the rationale for family-focused interventions for parental psychiatric disorders.
This study used linked administrative data. Children's school readiness in multiple developmental domains (physical, social, emotional, communicative, cognitive) was measured by the Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) for 19 071 Western Australian children (mean age 5.5 years). Children scoring in the bottom 25% on any AEDC domain were considered developmentally vulnerable, or at risk of vulnerability, on that domain. Biological child–parent pairs were identified using birth records. Parents with psychiatric disorders were identified from hospital records, which included information on diagnosis and frequency/duration of psychiatric admissions. Logistic regressions, adjusted for parent age, mother's marital status, child Aboriginality, child English language status, local community remoteness and socioeconomic index, estimated the odds of children being vulnerable/at-risk on each of the AEDC domains.
A total of 719 mothers and 417 fathers had a psychiatric hospitalisation during the study period (12 months prior to the child's birth, up to the end of 2009). Children whose parents had psychiatric disorders had increased odds of being classified as vulnerable/at-risk for school readiness. This increase in odds was evident for both maternal (adjusted odds ratio, aOR 1.37– 1.51) and paternal psychiatric disorders (aOR 1.38–1.50); and for a single admission of one day (aOR 1.32–1.59), a single admission of multiple days (aOR 1.30–1.47), and multiple admissions (aOR 1.35–1.63). Some variability in child outcome was found depending on the parents’ psychiatric diagnosis (mood, anxiety, substance abuse or comorbid disorder).
Children of parents who have been hospitalised with psychiatric disorders are at risk for poor school readiness. These findings add support to recommendations that mental health professionals consider dependent children in discharge and treatment planning for adult psychiatric inpatients. It is also important to ensure that the impact of psychiatric illness in fathers is not overlooked in assessment and intervention. Family-based approaches to adult psychiatric care could meet the dual needs of intervention for parents and preventative measures for children. These findings can inform policy regarding the importance of integrating and coordinating services to meet the needs of families.
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