Understanding caregivers' help-seeking for Latino children's mental health care use

Margarita Alegría, Glorisa Canino, Lai Shenghan, Rafael R. Ramirez, Ligia Chavez, Dana Rusch, Patrick E. Shrout

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Latino children have persistent low rates of mental health service use. Understanding the factors that influence caregivers' decisions about whether to use mental health care for their children can help explain why. Objective: The objective of this study was to investigate the factors reported by the primary caregiver that could help classify Puerto Rican children into users versus nonusers of mental health services and mental health versus school sector care, among users. Subjects: Data were collected from a random Puerto Rican community sample of caregiver-child dyads. Measures: Version-IV of the Computerized Diagnostic Interview for Children (DISC) was used to assess psychiatric disorders in children. The Service Assessment for Children and Adolescents (SACA) was used to examine the types of services used for mental health problems. Statistical Methods: The Classification and Regression Tree (CART) approach was used to develop a simple model simulating caregivers' decision-making around taking children for mental health care and the setting for care. Results: The classification model of use versus no use of mental health service suggested 3 significant predictors: child's level of impairment, parental concern, and child's difficulty in performing schoolwork. The classification model of sector of care, mental health versus school setting, identified 1 significant predictor, any disruptive disorder diagnosis. Conclusion: Assisting caregivers in linking a child's impairment with need for mental health care might be a mechanism to reduce children's unmet need. Approaches such as CART, used to identify factors predicting consumer choices in marketing, might be useful to select strategies for social campaigns targeted toward decreasing unmet need.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)447-455
Number of pages9
JournalMedical care
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2004


  • CART
  • Children
  • Ethnic minority
  • Help-seeking
  • Latino
  • Mental health
  • Service use

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


Dive into the research topics of 'Understanding caregivers' help-seeking for Latino children's mental health care use'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this