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J Consult Clin Psychol. 2007 Feb;75(1):1-8.

Judging mental disorder in youths: Effects of client, clinician, and contextual differences.

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  • 1School of Social Work, Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, NJ 08901, USA.


Using a vignette-based, mailed survey of 1,401 experienced psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers, the authors examined how clients' race/ethnicity and clinicians' professional and social characteristics affect their judgment of mental disorder among antisocially behaving youths. Vignettes described problematic behaviors meeting the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed.; DSM-IV; American Psychiatric Association, 1994) criteria for conduct disorder but contained contextual information suggesting either disorder or nondisorder, following DSM-IV guidelines. Clinicians depended on contextual information to decide whether a mental disorder existed, and they judged White youths to have a disorder more frequently than Black or Hispanic youths. Clinicians' occupation, theoretical orientation, and age also were associated with disorder judgments, whereas their gender, race, and experience were not. Research and training implications of these variations in clinical judgments are discussed.

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