Mental Health Service Utilization Among African American and Caucasian Mothers and Fathers

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Abstract

Mental health services have been routinely underutilized. This study investigated the influence of parents' gender, race, and psychopathology on perceived barriers and attitudes toward mental health utilization for themselves and for their children. A unique contribution of this study is the examination of father, mother, and child factors influencing service utilization from the parents' perspective. A total of 194 African American and Caucasian parents were recruited from the community to participate. Parents completed measures on barriers and attitudes toward treatment for themselves and for their children, history of mental health service utilization for themselves and for their children, and their own current psychological symptoms. Results indicated that 36.3% and 19.4% of parents and children, respectively, had used mental health services during their lifetime. Parents perceived fewer barriers and had more positive attitudes toward seeking services for their children than for themselves. Race and gender differences were found in parents' perceptions of barriers and attitudes toward treatment. Furthermore, barriers, attitudes, and psychopathology predicted parents' plans for future utilization of mental health services. The clinical implications of this study and directions for future research are discussed.

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