Determinants of using children’s mental health research in policymaking: variation by type of research use and phase of policy process

Jonathan Purtle, Katherine L. Nelson, Sarah Mc Cue Horwitz, Mary M. McKay, Kimberly E. Hoagwood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Research use in policymaking is multi-faceted and has been the focus of extensive study. However, virtually no quantitative studies have examined whether the determinants of research use vary according to the type of research use or phase of policy process. Understanding such variation is important for selecting the targets of implementation strategies that aim to increase the frequency of research use in policymaking. Methods: A web-based survey of US state agency officials involved with children’s mental health policymaking was conducted between December 2019 and February 2020 (n = 224, response rate = 33.7%, 49 states responding (98%), median respondents per state = 4). The dependent variables were composite scores of the frequency of using children’s mental health research in general, specific types of research use (i.e., conceptual, instrumental, tactical, imposed), and during different phases of the policy process (i.e., agenda setting, policy development, policy implementation). The independent variables were four composite scores of determinants of research use: agency leadership for research use, agency barriers to research use, research use skills, and dissemination barriers (e.g., lack of actionable messages/recommendations in research summaries, lack of interaction/collaboration with researchers). Separate multiple linear regression models estimated associations between determinant and frequency of research use scores. Results: Determinants of research use varied significantly by type of research use and phase of policy process. For example, agency leadership for research use was the only determinant significantly associated with imposed research use (β = 0.31, p < 0.001). Skills for research use were the only determinant associated with tactical research use (β = 0.17, p = 0.03) and were only associated with research use in the agenda-setting phase (β = 0.16, p = 0.04). Dissemination barriers were the most universal determinants of research use, as they were significantly and inversely associated with frequency of conceptual (β = −0.21, p = 0.01) and instrumental (β = −0.22, p = 0.01) research use and during all three phases of policy process. Conclusions: Decisions about the determinants to target with policy-focused implementation strategies—and the strategies that are selected to affect these targets—should reflect the specific types of research use that these strategies aim to influence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number13
JournalImplementation Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Children
  • Mental health
  • Policy
  • Research use in policymaking
  • United States
  • Research Personnel
  • Humans
  • Policy Making
  • Mental Health
  • Child Health
  • Health Policy
  • Child

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health Policy
  • Health Informatics


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