Children are more likely to remain in treatment for mental health issues if their parents consider the therapy to be beneficial, a recent study reports.
Researchers studied 573 children aged 6 to 12 years who were first-time patients at 1 of 9 mental health clinics participating in the Longitudinal Assessment of Manic Symptoms (LAMS) study. Parents answered questions about the children’s sociodemographic and diagnostic characteristics and use of services and assessed the amount of benefit from treatment at a baseline evaluation after the child’s first outpatient visit and again at a 6-month follow-up.
Parents who believed that treatment benefited their children “a lot” (29%) were more likely to continue it at 6 months. Parents and guardians were twice as likely to continue treatment at 6 months if their child was treated with drugs (35%) or drugs plus psychosocial therapy (36%) compared with psychosocial therapy alone (19%). Parents who see improvement in their child’s condition may overlook their concerns about possible medication adverse effects, the researchers speculate.
Other factors related to perceived benefit included the LAMS site, the child living with both biological parents, and the child having higher function scores, no comorbid diagnoses, and no parents or siblings previously hospitalized for mental illness.
Race and ethnicity were not influential factors. In contrast to some previous reports, rates of continued therapy were similar in white children (76%), black children (74%), Latino children (82%), and children of other or mixed race (79%).
The researchers conclude that positive parental perceptions of results early in therapy may significantly predict the likelihood of children remaining in treatment and suggest that this finding could point the way to effective strategies to engage families and keep children in therapy.
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