Use of the Pediatric Symptom Checklist to screen for psychosocial problems in pediatric primary care: a national feasibility study.
BACKGROUND: Routine use of a brief psychosocial screening instrument has been proposed as a means of improving recognition, management, and referral of children's psychosocial morbidity in primary care. OBJECTIVE: To assess the feasibility of routine psychosocial screening using the Pediatric Symptom Checklist (PSC) in pediatrics by using a brief version of the checklist in a large sample representative of the full range of pediatric practice settings in the United States and Canada. We evaluated large-scale screening and the performance of the PSC in detecting psychosocial problems by (1) determining whether the prevalence of psychosocial dysfunction identified by the PSC was consistent with findings in previous, smaller samples; (2) assessing whether the prevalence of positive PSC screening scores varied by population subgroups; and (3) determining whether the PSC was completed by a significant proportion of parents from all subgroups and settings. PATIENTS AND METHODS: Twenty-one thousand sixty-five children between the ages of 4 and 15 years were seen in 2 large primary care networks: the Ambulatory Sentinel Practice Network and the Pediatric Research in Office Settings network, involving 395 pediatric and family practice clinicians in 44 states, Puerto Rico, and 4 Canadian provinces. Parents were asked to complete a brief questionnaire that included demographic information, history of mental health services, the 35-item PSC, and the number of pediatric visits within the past 6 months. RESULTS: The overall prevalence rates of psychosocial dysfunction as measured by the PSC in school-aged and preschool-aged pediatric outpatients (13% and 10%, respectively) were nearly identical to the rates that had been reported in several smaller samples (12%-14% among school-aged children and 7%-14% among preschoolers). Consistent with previous findings, children from low-income families were twice as likely to be scored as dysfunctional on the PSC than were children from higher-income families. Similarly, children from single-parent as opposed to those from 2-parent families and children with a past history of mental health services showed an elevated risk of psychosocial impairment. The current study was the first to demonstrate a 50% increase in risk of impairment for male children. The overall rate of completed forms was 97%, well within an acceptable range, and at least 94% of the parents in each sociodemographic subgroup completed the PSC form. CONCLUSIONS: Use of the PSC offers an approach to the recognition of psychosocial dysfunction that is sufficiently consistent across groups and locales to become part of comprehensive pediatric care in virtually all outpatient settings. In addition to its clinical utility, the consistency and widespread acceptability of the PSC make it well suited for the next generation of pediatric mental health services research, which can address whether earlier recognition of and intervention for psychosocial problems in pediatrics will lead to cost-effective outcomes. (+info
The Montefiore community children's project: a controlled study of cognitive and emotional problems of homeless mothers and children.
OBJECTIVES: This study compares the prevalence of emotional, academic, and cognitive impairment in children and mothers living in the community with those living in shelters for the homeless. METHOD: In New York City, 82 homeless mothers and their 102 children, aged 6 to 11, recruited from family shelters were compared to 115 nonhomeless mothers with 176 children recruited from classmates of the homeless children. Assessments included standardized tests and interviews. RESULTS: Mothers in shelters for the homeless showed higher rates of depression and anxiety than did nonhomeless mothers. Boys in homeless shelters showed higher rates of serious emotional and behavioral problems. Both boys and girls in homeless shelters showed more academic problems than did nonhomeless children. CONCLUSION: Study findings suggest a need among homeless children for special attention to academic problems that are not attributable to intellectual deficits in either children or their mothers. Although high rates of emotional and behavioral problems characterized poor children living in both settings, boys in shelters for the homeless may be particularly in need of professional attention. (+info
Alexithymia: a facet of essential hypertension.
Two hundred thirty-seven newly diagnosed yet untreated hypertensive men and women, 35 to 54 years of age, were compared with an age- and gender-stratified random population sample of 146 normotensive men and women to find out whether psychological distress symptoms, anger expression, and alexithymia are associated with elevated blood pressure and whether the possible associations are independent of sodium and alcohol intake, body mass index, and physical fitness. The independent attributes of mean arterial pressure were studied by multivariate regression analyses after combining the subjects in the hypertensive and control groups. Three questionnaires were used: the Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI-37), a 31-item version of the Spielberger State-Trait Anger Expression Inventory (STAXI), and the Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS-26). Total scores of the TAS-26 were higher (P<0.001) in hypertensive men and women than in their normotensive control subjects (75.6+/-7.8 vs 64.1+/-9.8 in men and 72.9+/-7.1 vs 57.5+/-11.5 in women). There were no differences between the study and control groups in psychological distress symptoms, including anxiety, depression, and hostility, or in anger expression. In multivariate regression analyses, higher age, male gender, higher sodium intake, lower physical fitness, and alexithymia were independently and highly significantly (P<0.01 for male gender, P<0.0001 for other variables) associated with increased blood pressure, explaining altogether 39.5% of the cross-sectional variation in mean arterial pressure. We conclude that alexithymia, that is, poor ability to experience and express emotions, is associated with elevated blood pressure independent of sodium and alcohol intake, body mass index, and physical fitness. (+info
Lifetime low-level exposure to environmental lead and children's emotional and behavioral development at ages 11-13 years. The Port Pirie Cohort Study.
The Port Pirie Cohort Study is the first study to monitor prospectively the association between lifetime blood lead exposure and the prevalence of emotional and behavioral problems experienced by children. Lead exposure data along with ratings on the Child Behavior Checklist were obtained for 322 11-13-year-old children from the lead smelting community of Port Pirie, Australia. Mean total behavior problem score (95% confidence interval (CI)) for boys whose lifetime average blood lead concentration was above 15 microg/dl was 28.7 (24.6-32.8) compared with 21.1 (17.5-24.8) in boys with lower exposure levels. The corresponding mean scores (95% CI) for girls were 29.7 (25.3-34.2) and 18.0 (14.7-21.3). After controlling for a number of confounding variables, including the quality of the child's HOME environment (assessed by Home Observation for Measurement of the Environment), maternal psychopathology, and the child's IQ, regression modeling predicted that for a hypothetical increase in lifetime blood lead exposure from 10 to 30 microg/dl, the externalizing behavior problem score would increase by 3.5 in boys (95% CI 1.6-5.4), and by 1.8 (95% CI -0.1 to 11.1) in girls. Internalizing behavior problem scores were predicted to rise by 2.1 (95% CI 0.0-4.2) in girls but by only 0.8 (95% CI -0.9 to 2.4) in boys. (+info
Income group differences in relationships among survey measures of physical and mental health.
The present research tested the hypothesis that the experience of health is hierarchically organized such that gratification of physical health needs must precede gratification of mental health needs. It was reasoned that because the nondisadvantaged possess greater resources for the gratification of health needs in general, symptoms of mental illness would be more salient for this group and thus better able to explain variance in both mental and physical illness. On the other hand, it was reasoned that symptoms of physical illness would be more salient and thus better able to explain variance in both mental and physical illness for the disadvantaged. Results of the study indicate income group differences in patterns of relationships among health variables, supporting the hypothesis and suggesting important differences in the validity of health measures across income groups. The results are related to previous findings in medical sociology, and suggestions for future research are made. (+info
Dissociable neural responses to facial expressions of sadness and anger.
Previous neuroimaging and neuropsychological studies have investigated the neural substrates which mediate responses to fearful, disgusted and happy expressions. No previous studies have investigated the neural substrates which mediate responses to sad and angry expressions. Using functional neuroimaging, we tested two hypotheses. First, we tested whether the amygdala has a neural response to sad and/or angry facial expressions. Secondly, we tested whether the orbitofrontal cortex has a specific neural response to angry facial expressions. Volunteer subjects were scanned, using PET, while they performed a sex discrimination task involving static grey-scale images of faces expressing varying degrees of sadness and anger. We found that increasing intensity of sad facial expression was associated with enhanced activity in the left amygdala and right temporal pole. In addition, we found that increasing intensity of angry facial expression was associated with enhanced activity in the orbitofrontal and anterior cingulate cortex. We found no support for the suggestion that angry expressions generate a signal in the amygdala. The results provide evidence for dissociable, but interlocking, systems for the processing of distinct categories of negative facial expression. (+info
The three dimensions of headache impact: pain, disability and affective distress.
It is increasingly recognized that pain measures alone provide incomplete information about the impact of pain on functioning or quality-of-life. A wide range of measures that promise to provide additional information about the impact of pain on people's lives are thus coming into use. In order to clarify the construct of headache impact, we attempted to identify the dimensions assessed by a set of 22 headache-impact measures and to identify the specific measures that best assessed each of these headache-impact dimensions. Adults (n=329) with frequent benign headache disorders completed a comprehensive assessment battery that included 22 headache-impact measures. Factor analysis was then used to identify dimensions underlying the headache-impact measures. Three factors labeled Affective Distress, Pain Density and Disability best accounted for correlations among headache-impact measures. Interfactor correlations ranged between 0.37 and 0.20, suggesting three correlated but separable impact dimensions. These results suggest the construct of headache impact needs to be broadened beyond pain and disability to include affective distress. An adequate assessment of the impact of recurrent headache disorders in clinical trials and other research may require measures from all three of the headache-impact dimensions identified here. (+info
Eating disordered patients: personality, alexithymia, and implications for primary care.
BACKGROUND: Eating disorders are becoming more apparent in primary care. Descriptions of character traits related to people with eating disorders are rarely reported in the primary care literature and there is little awareness of the implications of alexithymia--a concept that defines the inability to identify or express emotion. We hypothesised that many individuals with active eating disorders have alexithymic traits and a tendency to somatize their distress. AIM: To analyse the character traits and degree of alexithymia of a selected group of women with active eating disorders and in recovery, and to recommend responses by members of the primary care team that might meet the needs of such individuals. METHOD: Letters were sent to 200 female members of the Eating Disorders Association who had agreed to participate in research. Seventy-nine women volunteered to complete four postal questionnaires. This gave a response rate of 38.5%. Responders were categorised into three groups--anorexic, bulimic, and recovered--using the criteria of the Eating Disorders Inventory (EDI-2). The results of the 16PF5 Personality Inventory (16PF5) and the Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS-20) were analysed using one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) and correlated using Pearson's correlation. A biographical questionnaire was also completed. RESULTS: In all three subgroups, high scores were achieved on the 16PF5 on 'apprehension and social sensitivity', while there were significant differences in the scores for 'privateness': a scale that measures the ability to talk about feelings and confide in others. On the TAS-20, 65% of the anorexic and 83% of the bulimic group scored in the alexithymic range compared with 33% of the recovered group. There was a significant negative correlation between alexithymia and social skills such as 'social and emotional expressivity' on the 16PF5. CONCLUSION: The results of this study emphasise the difference between those with active eating disorders who achieved high scores for privacy, introversion, and alexithymia, and those who have recovered. These character traits give potential helpers an important indication of the areas that can both block and facilitate recovery, and they act as a reminder that the presenting symptoms in eating disorders and other psychosomatic conditions are the outward presentation of internal conflict. It is suggested that effective screening and needs assessment will facilitate a more appropriate and prompt therapeutic response. This may be provided in the primary care setting where appropriate training has occurred. (+info