Maternal distress, child behaviour, and disclosure of psychosocial concerns to a paediatrician

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Despite the availability of effective screening measures, primary care providers continue to fail to identify and manage many children with psychosocial problems. One of the best predictors of identification by a primary care physician is whether mothers disclose concerns about their child's psychosocial functioning to their child's physician. This study examined if maternal distress and child behaviour predicted whether mothers had and discussed concerns about their child's behaviour and emotions with paediatricians.


Participants were 138 mothers who accompanied their 4–12-year-old children to a health supervision visit at an urban teaching hospital. Mothers completed a demographic questionnaire, the Pediatric Symptom Checklist, the Beck Depression Inventory, and an exit questionnaire.


Logistic regression correctly classified 97.3% of mothers who did not disclose child problems. Only 34.5% of mothers who did disclose were correctly classified.


The results supported the hypothesis that mothers' psychosocial functioning is significantly related to concern about child behaviour and disclosure of concerns to the paediatrician. The inability of child behaviour and maternal functioning to predict which mothers were concerned and disclosed concerns supports the hypothesis that disclosure and identification of psychosocial problems in primary care is complex and requires a multifactor model.

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