J Pediatr Psychol. 2020 Aug 7:jsaa057. doi: 10.1093/jpepsy/jsaa057. Online ahead of print.
OBJECTIVE: The goal of this study was to examine modifiable factors related to health disparities by exploring the role of predisposing, need, and enabling characteristics on mental/behavioral health treatment-seeking behaviors in a rural sample. Parental treatment preferences and knowledge about treatment options were also examined.
METHODS: One hundred eighteen parents completed questionnaires assessing demographics, child prior psychological treatment, child psychological symptoms, barriers to care, mental health stigma, and willingness to seek services across settings. Questions also assessed preferences for treatment, awareness of behavioral/mental health services, and knowledge of community treatment options.
RESULTS: Prior treatment use and stigma significantly predicted willingness to seek services in a doctor’s office after controlling for predisposing (demographic) and need characteristics (psychological symptoms). Symptom severity and barriers significantly differentiated between parents who previously sought treatment or reported an unmet treatment need from those who reported no prior treatment and no treatment need. Families overwhelmingly (94%) reported a preference for individual versus group treatment, and up to 10 sessions were most commonly reported (38%) as the ideal number of sessions. Forty percent of respondents reported no knowledge of treatment options in their community.
CONCLUSIONS: These results highlight the role of enabling characteristics (i.e., stigma, barriers to care, psychological symptoms) and prior service use in understanding parental treatment seeking in a rural sample. Overall, these results support integrated behavioral health in rural settings. Understanding modifiable factors and parent treatment preferences and knowledge may be important to increase access to services and reduce health disparities in rural areas. Future research directions are discussed.