One in Four Preschoolers from Low-Income Families Screens Positive for Social and Emotional Problems

Monday, August 27, 2012

One of every four preschool-age children from a low-income family who receives medical care at urban primary care clinics needs further evaluation for social and emotional problems, according to a new study.

The Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center study shows that 24 percent of these children screened positive for social and emotional problems.

The study is published online in Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

“We need to make sure there are medical systems and community partnerships in place to meet the needs of this population,” says Courtney Brown, MD, a pediatrician at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and lead author of the study. “Among those screening positive, only one in six had been referred previously for behavioral health services.”

Cincinnati Children’s researchers administered a standardized screening survey for social and emotional problems to 254 parents of 3- and 4-year-old children at two of the medical center’s urban primary care clinics. Only 16 percent of those who screened positive reported a prior referral for help. In addition, 45 percent of these children had a parent with symptoms of depression.

“Four of every five parents said they were receptive to a referral to a counselor or psychologist,” says Dr. Brown. “Future research should work to explain and close the gap between the percentage of families who need and want preventive or early intervention services and the percentage of families that actually enroll in such programs.”

The study was supported by funds from the Department of Health and Human Services under a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (T32 HP10027-12-00) and by a grant from the National Institutes of Health/National Center for Research Resources (5UL1RR026314-3).

About Cincinnati Children’s

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center is third in the nation in U.S.News and World Report’s 2012 Best Children’s Hospitals ranking. It is ranked #1 for neonatology and in the top 10 for all pediatric specialties. Cincinnati Children’s is one of the top two recipients of pediatric research grants from the National Institutes of Health. It is internationally recognized for improving child health and transforming delivery of care through fully integrated, globally recognized research, education and innovation. Additional information can be found at

Contact Information

Jim Feuer, 513-636-4656,