Mental Health Concerns Are Prevalent in Children with Neurodevelopmental Conditions

May 22, 2023

Study Finds Over 1/3 of Children with NDCs Had Mental Health Needs, Females Reported Increased Internalizing Symptoms Compared to Males

Researchers from Australia recently set out to evaluate mental health concerns in children with neurodevelopmental conditions (NDCs) who were attending their first developmental assessment at a publicly-funded diagnostic assessment service. In total, their study included 232 children aged 1.96–17.51 years. The authors assessed mental health concerns using the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL), an assessment of behavioral and emotional difficulties. Their research showed that mental health concerns were highly prevalent in children with NDCs, with over one-third of children displaying subclinical or clinically elevated internalizing (e.g., symptoms of depression, loneliness, and anxiety), or externalizing (e.g., oppositional defiance disorder, conduct disorder, and antisocial personality disorder) behaviors. These increased rates remained even after excluding items specifically relating to neurodevelopmental concerns. Additionally, the authors discovered that more school-aged females reported elevated internalizing problems relative to males (67 % vs. 48 %). Children who received two or more DSM-5 diagnoses showed a greater rate of subclinical or clinically elevated scores than children who received one DSM-5 diagnosis. The authors concluded that children attending developmental assessment services have considerable mental health needs. They point out that it is critical that mental health concerns are identified and addressed in children when they first visit developmental assessment services and that clinicians become equipped to provide appropriate resources and ways to access ongoing care.

Original Study

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