Research results in racial/ethnic differences in parents’ use of children’s mental health services

LOMA LINDA – Latino and Asian parents are less likely to seek mental health treatment for their children, compared with parents of other races, according to newly published research from Loma Linda University School of Public Health.

Reasons for this gap may be culturally-related barriers to treatment including fear of the “labeling effect” for the child, parents’ fear of being blamed, limited availability of culturally-appropriate programs, and the shortage of providers who are familiar with minority families’ language and culture.

Even after accounting for a number of other factors, estimates suggest that about 24 percent of Latino children and 29 percent of Asian children identified by their parents as having serious emotional problems received mental health services, compared with 47 percent of white children and 50 percent of African-American children, according to research that appeared in The Journal of Behavioral Health Services and Research. The study used data from the California Health Interview Survey from 2005, 2007 and 2009.

“This study shows that even after accounting for a number of other factors, such as education, income, and language, that Asian and Latino parents in California who realize that their child has emotional or behavioral difficulties are less likely than white or African-American parents to take their children in for treatment,” said Jim Banta, PhD, lead author of the article entitled “Race/Ethnicity, Parent-Identified Emotional Difficulties, and Mental Health Visits Among California Children.”

“This has implications at both the state and local levels,” said Banta.

Particularly given the large number of Latinos and Asians who are involved with Loma Linda as students, patients, and employees; developing and disseminating culturally-appropriate messages may result in wider use of mental health services among Latino and Asian children.

Banta collaborated on the study with researchers from the Loma Linda University School of Behavioral Health, Loma Linda University School of Medicine, and the University of California, Los Angeles. 

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