Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Fehr, Karla


Approximately 40% of youth experience psychological problems; however, less than half receive necessary services. Several help-seeking models suggest that for children to receive psychological care parents must: recognize a problem, decide to seek help, and select a service. The parent problem recognition stage has been largely overlooked in the literature and few studies have examined all stages of the process together. The current study aimed to fill gaps in the literature regarding parent problem recognition and explore the help-seeking process for child externalizing problems, anxiety, depression, and sleep difficulties. Data was collected an Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. Participants were 219 parents of children ages 7 to 12 who provided information about help-seeking and child mental health symptoms. Rates of accurate parent problem recognition ranged from 37.6% (sleep) to 66.0% (externalizing concerns). Rates of help-seeking in the current study were low ranging from 42.6% (sleep) to 72.7% (depression) even when parents identified a problem for their child. The severity of the child’s problem and parent past experience with mental health predicted problem identification and help-seeking across most presenting concerns. Specialty mental health services were underutilized across problem areas with over 70% of parents indicating that they had or would seek help from their pediatrician and less than half indicating that they had or would seek help from a therapist or psychologist. Results support previous findings that child psychological problems are under-recognized and under-treated. Future research and clinical work is needed to close the gap between the need for services and service use.




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