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Br J Gen Pract. 1995 May;45(394):235-7.

Psychiatric intervention in primary care for mothers whose schoolchildren have psychiatric disorder.

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Tameside General Hospital, Ashton-under-Lyme.



Psychiatric disorder in schoolchildren has been linked to increased general practice attendance rates. This increase may, in part, be a result of maternal stress focused on the disturbed child, and of a decrease in confidence in parenting.


A study was undertaken to pilot the feasibility of a single session, psychiatric intervention in primary care for mothers of disturbed children and to examine uptake rates and reported immediate and long-term effects.


Single psychiatric sessions by a child psychiatrist in general practice were offered to mothers of 26 schoolchildren. The schoolchildren (age range 7-12 years, mean nine years) were frequent attenders in general practice with physical symptoms, and were identified from research interviews carried out with a parent (usually their mother) as psychiatrically disordered. The main outcome measures were the mothers' ratings of helpfulness of the intervention; degree of behavioural, emotional or health problems in their children and confidence in managing them; the Rutter A parental behaviour questionnaire; and children's yearly general practice attendance rates.


Sixteen mothers (62%) who were offered appointments attended for the intervention. Nine of the 14 who responded at three-month follow up (64%) reported that the intervention had been markedly or extremely helpful. The main areas of perceived improvement at both three months and at 18-24 months were in the child's behaviour, emotional and health problems, and in the mother's confidence in dealing with these. Mothers also found the specific advice discussed and the ability to talk to somebody about the problems helpful. Mothers were less likely to find the intervention extremely or markedly useful where the child had had previous psychiatric intervention. The mean yearly attendance rate for the whole group of 23 children (data missing for three) decreased from 6.5 consultations before the intervention to 2.8 afterwards; there was a non-significant trend for the drop in attendance to be more marked in the group whose mothers attended the intervention and who felt helped by it, than among the group of children whose mothers only reported finding the intervention slightly useful.


Standardized child psychiatric interventions which may be used in the primary care setting appear acceptable and may be helpful to mothers in addressing psychiatric disorders associated with somatic presentation in their schoolchildren.

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