Mental Health Presentations of Clinic‐Referred Children in Out-of‐Home Care
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Education
This dissertation examines the mental health presentations of clinic-referred children in state ordered out-of-home care and compares these to the presentations of clinic-referred children from the general population. The results of this study will inform the design of a more comprehensive research project assessing the differences between the psychopathology of clinic-referred children in out-of-home care and children from the general population. The overall goal is for researchers and clinicians to be able to better understand the underlying determinisms of the psychopathology of children in out-of-home care. Three samples were used for the between-group comparisons. The Children in Care Study (CICS) sample consists of 213 clinic-referred children in out-of-home care between the ages of four and eleven years. Firstly, this group was compared to 800 clinic-referred children, between six and eleven years, from the general population. For this analysis, the CICS sample was adjusted to match this group’s age range. Secondly, the entire CICS sample was compared to 1201 clinic-referred children, between the ages of four and eleven, from the general population. Mental health presentations were measured using the Child Behaviour Checklist (CBCL). A within-subject comparison was conducted comparing the CICS sample’s CBCL DSM-oriented scores to the children’s caregiver-reported diagnosis. Results indicated that clinic-referred children in care presented with significantly fewer internalising symptoms than clinic-referred children from the general population. Clinic-referred children in care displayed greater correlations among their CBCL subscale scores than other clinic-referred children, which may suggest greater symptom complexity. Additionally, there appeared to be poor concordance between caregiver-reported psychiatric diagnoses and CBCL DSM-oriented scores for clinic-referred children in out-of-home care. Overall, the mental health presentations measured by the CBCL indicated that the differences between the two populations were relatively small in terms of their severity. However, clinic-referred children in care presented with less severe internalising problems than other clinic-referred children. Further research is needed to explore the issues underlying diagnostic dis-concordance and the complexity of the mental health presentations of children in state ordered care.