Child Problem Recognition and Help-Seeking Intentions Among Black and White Parents Academic Article uri icon


  • Parents play a central role in utilization of mental health services by their children. This study explored the relationship between parents' recognition of child mental health problems and their decisions to seek help. Participants included 251 parents (49% Black, 51% White; 49% fathers, 51% mothers) recruited from community settings. Parents ranged in age from 20 to 66 years old with at least one child between ages 2 and 21. Parents read three vignettes that described a child with an anxiety disorder, ADHD, and no clinically significant diagnosis. Parents completed measures of problem recognition, perception of need, willingness to seek help, and beliefs about causes of mental illness. Findings from Generalized Estimating Equations revealed that parents were more likely to report intentions to seek help when they recognized a problem (odds ratio [OR] = 41.35, p < .001), 95% confidence interval (CI) [14.81, 115.49]; when it was an externalizing problem (OR = 1.85, p < .05), 95% CI [1.14, 3.02]; and when parents were older (OR = 1.04, p < .05), 95% CI [1.01, 1.08]. Predictors of parental problem recognition included perceived need, prior experience with mental illness, and belief in trauma as a cause of mental illness. Predictors of help-seeking intentions included problem recognition, perceived need, externalizing problem type, and being female. Given the relationship between parental problem recognition and willingness to seek help, findings suggest that efforts to address disparities in mental health utilization could focus on problem-specific, gender-sensitive, mutable factors such as helping parents value help-seeking for internalizing as well as externalizing problems.

altmetric score

  • 0.75

author list (cited authors)

  • Thurston, I. B., Phares, V., Coates, E. E., & Bogart, L. M.

citation count

  • 29

publication date

  • March 2014