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Prevalence of psychiatric disorders in youths across five sectors of care.

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  • 1Child and Adolescent Services Research Center, Children's Hospital and Health Center, San Diego, CA, USA. agarland@casrc.org



To examine the prevalence of psychiatric disorders among youths from the following five public sectors of care: alcohol and drug services (AD), child welfare (CW), juvenile justice (JJ), mental health (MH), and public school services for youths with serious emotional disturbance (SED) in San Diego, California.


The Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children was administered between October 1997 and January 1999 for 1,618 randomly selected youths aged 6-18 years who were active in at least one of the five sectors.


Fifty-four percent of the participants met criteria for at least one study disorder. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and disruptive behavior disorders (50%) were much more common than anxiety (10%) or mood (7%) disorders. Youths who were active in the MH and SED sectors were more likely than those not in these sectors to meet criteria for a disorder; youths in the CW sector were least likely.


Rates of psychiatric disorders, specifically ADHD and disruptive behavior disorders, are extremely high for youths in public sectors of care. Rates are generally higher in sectors designed to serve youths with psychiatric needs, but the prevalence of disorders was also high in sectors not specifically designed for this need (e.g., CW and JJ).

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