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The NIMH Methods for the Epidemiology of Child and Adolescent Mental Disorders (MECA) Study: background and methodology.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Chicago, IL 60637, USA.



A collaborative study was conducted to develop methods for surveys of mental disorder and service utilization in unscreened population-based samples of children and adolescents.


Probability household samples of youths 9 through 17 years of age were selected at four sites and interviews were conducted with a total of 1,285 pairs of youths and their adult caretakers in their homes. Lay interviewers administered a computer-assisted version of the NIMH Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children Version 2.3 and structured interviews to assess demographic variables, functional impairment, risk factors, service utilization, and barriers to service utilization.


More than 7,500 households were enumerated at four sites, with enumeration response rates above 99%. Across sites, 84% of eligible youth-caretaker pairs were interviewed for about 2 hours each. Ninety-five percent of both youths and caretakers found the interview to be acceptable enough to recommend to a friend.


These findings indicate that large-scale epidemiological surveys of mental disorders and mental health service use involving lengthy interviews in the homes of unscreened population-based samples of youths and their adult caretakers are acceptable to the community and can achieve good response rates. The other reports in this Special Section address the reliability and validity of the various survey instruments and other key findings.

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