The Caring for Children in the Community Study examined the prevalence of DSM-IV psychiatric disorders and correlates of mental health service use in rural African American and white youth.
Four thousand five hundred youth aged 9 to 17 years from 4 North Carolina counties were randomly selected from school databases. Parents completed telephone questionnaires about their children's behavior problems. A second-stage sample of 1302 was identified for recruitment into the interview phase of the study, and 920 (70.7%) of these were successfully interviewed at home using the Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Assessment and related measures of service use.
Weighted back to general population estimates, 21.1% of youth had 1 or more DSM-IV psychiatric disorders in the past 3 months. Prevalence was similar in African American (20.5%) and white (21.9%) youth. The only ethnic difference was an excess of depressive disorders in white youth (4.6% vs 1.4%). Thirteen percent of participants (36.0% of those with a diagnosis) received mental health care in the past 3 months. White youth were more likely than African American youth to use specialty mental health services (6.1% vs 3.2%), but services provided by schools showed very little ethnic disparity (8.6% vs 9.2%). The effect of children's symptoms on their parents was the strongest correlate of specialty mental health care.
In this rural sample, African American and white youth were equally likely to have psychiatric disorders, but African Americans were less likely to use specialty mental health services. School services provided care to the largest number of youths of both ethnic groups.