Date of Award

2017

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology

Specialization

Clinical Psychology

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Ellen Flannery-Schroeder

Abstract

A significant discrepancy exists between the rate of mental health problems in children and adolescents and their engagement in mental health services. A major contributor to this problem is poor mental health literacy among parents. Parents are typically responsible for identifying mental health issues in their children, but studies show that they struggle with problem recognition. The current study is the first randomized controlled trial to assess the effectiveness of an intervention to increase parents’ recognition skills of children’s mental health problems. Participants included 298 participants recruited from community and online settings. Participants ranged in age from 24 to 58 and had at least one child between ages three and 17. Parents who were randomly assigned to the intervention group viewed a pamphlet designed for the current study that provided psychoeducation about problem recognition. Parents in the control group did not view the pamphlet. All parents read three vignettes that described a child with an anxiety disorder, ADHD, and no clinical diagnosis, then completed measures of problem recognition, problem severity, and perceived need for services. Parents also answered questions about their own experiences with mental health issues. Findings revealed that the intervention did not improve problem recognition or increase perceived need for services. However, problem recognition, problem severity, and perceived need for services were rated higher among parents with a personal or familial history of mental health problems, suggesting that mental health experience increases mental health literacy. Additionally, more parents, particularly women, recognized symptoms of anxiety than symptoms of ADHD, which contrasts findings from previous studies. Personal history of anxiety was particularly high among our study sample, which may explain the disproportionately high rate of anxiety recognition. Together, these findings suggest that problem recognition is influenced by knowledge of and experience with mental health issues. Due to the brevity of the pamphlet, the dose of the intervention may have been too low to effect observable change in problem recognition. Future research is warranted to continue exploring the impact of other interventions to increase parents’ problem recognition skills.

Available for download on Friday, November 22, 2019

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