Family physicians' involvement and self-reported comfort and skill in care of children with behavioral and emotional problems: a population-based survey
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BACKGROUND: Little is known about general and family practitioners' (GP/FPs') involvement and confidence in dealing with children with common psychosocial problems and mental health conditions. The aims of this study were to ascertain GP/FPs' preferred level of involvement with, and perceived comfort and skill in dealing with children with behavioral problems, social-emotional difficulties, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and mood disorders; and to identify factors associated with GP/FPs' involvement, comfort and skill. METHODS: Postal survey of a representative sample of 801 GP/FPs in British Columbia, Canada, which enquired about level of involvement (from primarily refer out to deal with case oneself); ratings of comfort/skill with assessment/diagnosis and management; beliefs regarding psychosocial problems in children; basic demographics; and practice information. RESULTS: Surveys were completed by 405 of 629 eligible GP/FPs (64.4%). Over 80% of respondents reported collaborative arrangements with specialists across problem and condition types, although for children with behavior problems or ADHD, more physicians primarily refer (chi2 (1) = 9.0; P < 0.005; and chi2 (1) = 103.9; P < 0.001, respectively). Comfort/skill levels (mean +/- s.d) were higher for mood disorders (4.4 +/- 1.3) than behavior problems (3.6 +/- 1.1; F [3, 1155] = 84.0, P < .0001; effect size = 0.67), but not different from social-emotional difficulties (3.8 +/- 1.1) or ADHD (3.9 +/- 1.3). Taking primary responsibility for a case was consistently related to self-reported comfort/skill with each condition type (34% to 61% of variance across condition types), while comfort/skill ratings for each condition were related to exposure to relevant continuing medical education (all P < or = 0.001), and beliefs that these problems are significant and that GP/FPs have a role to play in dealing with them (P values ranged from 0.01 to < 0.001). CONCLUSION: Supporting GP/FPs in their care for children with common psychosocial and mental health problems should include efforts to bolster their confidence and modify attitudes in relation towards these problems, especially behavior problems and ADHD, possibly within innovative continuing education programs.
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