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J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2005 Nov;44(11):1184-92.

Are ataques de nervios in Puerto Rican children associated with psychiatric disorder?

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  • 1Institute for Health, Health Care Policy, and Aging Research, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-1293, USA.



To provide the first empirical analysis of a cultural syndrome in children by examining the prevalence and psychiatric correlates of ataques de nervios in an epidemiological study of the mental health of children in Puerto Rico.


Probability samples of caretakers of children 4-17 years old in the community (N = 1,892; response rate: 90%) and in clinical services (N = 761; response rate 72%) were administered structured interviews to assess the presence and correlates of ataques de nervios.


Nine percent of children in the community sample and 26% of children in the clinical sample had a reported history of an ataque de nervios. In contrast to the overall community and clinical samples, which had more boys in them, the ataque de nervios groups in both samples had more girls in them. Family history of ataques de nervios was associated with ataques de nervios in children in both samples. Across a wide range of depression, anxiety, and disruptive disorders, children who reported an ataque de nervios were more likely to meet research criteria for psychiatric disorder in both samples.


Ataques de nervios are a frequently reported cultural syndrome among children in Puerto Rico. Adolescent girls are more likely to report this experience. Ataques de nervios have a significant relationship with psychiatric disorder and impairment in Puerto Rican children.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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