Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Habib, Reza


Mental and behavioral health difficulties are prevalent among children, and research suggests that the vast majority of these children do not receive needed services. Treatment disparities are even larger among rural youth given the scarcity of qualified specialty mental health providers, increased barriers to care, and greater mental health-related stigma compared to their urban counterparts. Many parents seek help and resources from their child’s primary care provider (PCP); however, the comprehensive management of psychosocial and behavioral concerns are often not feasible in traditional primary care settings. Integrating behavioral health services into pediatric primary care clinics has the potential to increase access to needed services, improve comprehensiveness and quality of care for patients, and reduce burdens on PCPs. Research on integrated behavioral health (IBH) models have indicated that it is a cost-effective service leading to improved treatment outcomes compared to usual primary care and that parents and physicians are generally satisfied and interested in this service delivery model. However, little is known about parents’ attitudes toward IBH and factors that may influence the acceptability of this type of care. Previous research has identified several factors associated with parent acceptability of mental health services for their child including symptom severity, attitudes toward child therapy, parenting stress, stigma, perceived barriers to care, and past experiences with services. However, it is unclear how these factors influence attitudes toward IBH, especially in rural areas. The current study examined parents’ attitudes toward co-located and integrated models of care, identified factors that affect acceptability of IBH, and explored differences between rural and urban parents’ attitudes. Results demonstrated that both rural and urban parents hold generally favorable attitudes toward IBH models and that parent attitudes toward general child therapy was strongly associated with IBH acceptability. Demographic variables (e.g., parent age, child age, minority status, socioeconomic status), need characteristics (e.g., parenting stress, child psychosocial symptoms), and other enabling factors (e.g., mental health-related stigma, prior service use, barriers to care) were not predictive of parent IBH acceptability. Urban parents rated co-located models of care as more acceptable and reported higher levels of parent psychosocial symptoms, stigma, and barriers to care compared to rural parents. These findings support efforts to continue integrating behavioral health services into pediatric primary care and highlight parent therapy attitudes as an important target for intervention to improve parent IBH acceptability. Findings also shed light on the need for more mixed-method research to understand the impact rural identity has on the acceptability and use of behavioral health services.




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