Brief psychosocial screening at health supervision and acute care visits

Iris Wagman Borowsky, Sara Mozayeny, Marjorie Ireland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

103 Scopus citations


Objective. To identify factors associated with positive scores on a brief psychosocial screening tool with subscales for internalizing, externalizing, and attention problems. Methods. Parents of 2028 children between the ages of 7 and 15 years seen in a sample of 8 primary care practices in the Minneapolis-St Paul metropolitan area completed a brief questionnaire that included the 17-item Pediatric Symptom Checklist (PSC), demographic information, and the reason for the child's visit to the clinic. Results. Overall, 22% of the youth had at least 1 positive PSC-17 subscale or a positive PSC-17 total score. Twelve percent scored positive on the internalizing subscale, 10% on the externalizing subscale, 7% on the attention subscale, and 11% had a positive PSC-17 total score. Although boys were more likely than girls to score positive on the attention and aggression subscales, boys and girls were equally likely to have a positive score on the depression subscale. Children not living with both biological parents and those with a household member receiving public assistance were significantly more likely to show psychosocial dysfunction. Controlling for demographic characteristics, patients presenting for an illness-related or injury visit were more likely to score positive on the screen than those presenting for a routine well-child visit (odds ratio: 1.46; 95% confidence interval: 1.07-1.98). Conclusions. Clinicians will miss opportunities to identify emotional and behavioral disorders among children and adolescents who may be at a higher risk if they limit psychosocial screening to health supervision visits. Further research is needed to identify effective strategies for using primary care for recognizing, diagnosing, and treating mental health disorders in children and adolescents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)129-133
Number of pages5
Issue number1 I
StatePublished - Jul 1 2003


  • Mental health
  • Pediatrics
  • Primary care
  • Psychosocial screening


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