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Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2014 Mar;23(3):151-61. doi: 10.1007/s00787-013-0440-8. Epub 2013 Jun 21.

Voluntary versus involuntary hospital admission in child and adolescent psychiatry: a German sample.

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Department of Psychiatry, LWL-University Hospital Bochum, Alexandrinenstr. 1, 44791, Bochum, Germany.


Involuntary psychiatric admission is a central issue in mental health care, especially in the treatment of children and adolescents. Its legal regulations do not only differ between European countries, but also on a federal level. Only few studies so far dealt with rates of involuntary admission (RIA), mainly focusing on adults, rather than children and adolescents. None of the studies analyzed this topic in a large cohort. The aim of this regional cross-sectional study was to compare voluntary and involuntary admissions in child and adolescent psychiatry (CAP) regarding personal and admission characteristics. Furthermore, risk factors and predictors of involuntary admission should be identified. A retrospective analysis of hospital admission registers from three major German CAP hospitals over a period of 6 years (2004-2009) was conducted (N = 10,547 inpatients). Group comparisons between involuntarily and voluntarily treated minors and a logistic regression to determine predictors of legal status were performed. Information on harm to self or others prior to the admission, medication and clinical outcome was not available due to data structure. 70.8 % of patients were voluntarily and 29.2 % involuntarily admitted. Both subsamples comprised more males. The RIA decreased consistently over the years, ranging from 25.7 to 32.4 %. The strongest predictor of being admitted involuntarily was suffering from mental retardation (OR = 15.74). Adolescence, substance abuse, psychotic disorders and admission on duty time were also strongly associated (OR > 3). In this first large cohort study on involuntary treatment of children and adolescents in Germany, about every fourth patient was treated involuntarily. Certain personal and disease-related factors increased the risk. Commitment laws and other legal instruments for regulating involuntary placements are inconsistent and a standardized description or systematic analysis is needed. The influence of demographic, institutional variables and care and health services aspects should also be investigated.

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