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Psychiatr Serv. 2001 Jun;52(6):800-4.

Use of the pediatric symptom checklist in strategies to improve preventive behavioral health care.

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  • 1Neighborhood Health Plan, Boston, MA, USA.



The purpose of this study was to examine the utility of the Pediatric Symptom Checklist (PSC) in identifying youth at risk of behavioral health problems and to develop strategies to meet their mental health needs.


The PSC was completed by the parents of 570 children aged two to 18 years at three urban health centers in Massachusetts. Follow-up interviews were conducted with the parents of 95 of the children. Multidisciplinary teams held case conferences to review the cases of 43 of the 95 children who were interviewed and who were determined to have moderate to severe behavioral health problems.


Of the 570 children in the screening sample, 144 (25 percent) had moderate to severe behavioral health problems, as indicated by a positive score on the PSC, and 2 percent had a serious emotional disturbance. Of the 297 pre-school-aged children (younger than six years), 67 (23 percent) received a positive score. Of the 283 school-aged children (age six and older) from both English- and Spanish-speaking families, 77 (27 percent) received a positive score. About one-third of the severely emotionally disturbed youth were receiving some mental health treatment, but only 20 percent were rated by the multidisciplinary team as receiving adequate treatment.


The study provided further support for the validity and reliability of the PSC and confirmed the results of earlier studies that found a high level of unmet needs for mental health services among this population. Use of the PSC in this study promoted an increase in referrals for children in need.

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