Does it surprise you to learn that a large longitudinal survey of parents has led to the conclusion that the rate of severe mental illness among children and adolescents has dropped considerably in the last generation? The study involved ratings by parents of impairments in household surveys involving 53,622 children aged 6 to 17, in 1996 and 2012. The surveys were sponsored by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
Two explanations proposed for the drop are improvements in referrals to treatment and more effective parenting. But the decline also contradicts other surveys, including by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that have pointed to increased serious mental disorders among children and teenagers. The discrepancies may be related to differences in measurement, with the CDC approach including more children with mild impairments, or maybe to the AHRQ approach missing problems like substance abuse that parents may not be aware of.
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What have been your own beliefs about changes in the prevalence of severe mental illness among children and adolescents? What have these beliefs been based on? Evidence? Assumptions?
What advantages and disadvantages can you identify in using parents to report on youth behavior? What about youth self-reports of behavior?