Do behavioural problems existing at referral become worse in subsequent years? A study of young persons referred to the outpatient unit of the mental health service
background Although young persons with severe and complex emotional and behavioural problems are often referred to the outpatient unit of the mental health service, little information is available about whether these problems increase over the years. This information is urgently needed in order to ensure that the mental health service provides adequate care.
aim To obtain more insight into any increase in young persons’ emotional and behavioural problems that may occur over a period of six years following referral to an outpatient unit of the mental health service.
method The nature, severity and complexity of the emotional and behavioural problems of 123 young persons (1999) and of 149 young persons (2005) at the time of the referral – as rated by their parents on the basis of the Child Behavior Checklist (cbcl) – were assessed; the young persons’ records were also checked for background characteristics.
results Compared to 1999, the year 2005 saw a slight decrease in the severity of the problems existing at referral; social problems also declined significantly compared to 1999. Problems identified in the 2005 group often seemed less complex than in 1999. The severity of delinquent behaviour as measured on the Delinquent Behaviour Scale seems to have risen in the 12 to 18 age group in 2005, whereas the severity declined in the 4 to 11-year olds. conclusion Emotional and behavioural problems as reported by the parents at the time their children were referred to the mental health service do not increase.