VARIABLES OF CHILDREN AT RISK FOR BEHAVIOR DISORDERS IN THE COMMUNITY
This research examined 116 children and adolescents referred to a boarded child psychiatrist in suburban Washington, D.C. over a three year period of time. It looked at variables which describe "at risk" children for behavior disorders. These variables were: age, sex, position in family, referral behaviors (including number and length of duration), source of referral, family socioeconomic status, developmental history, level of school functioning, family stability, the history of mental and physical illness within the immediate family unit, and medical diagnoses. A medical questionnaire filled out before evaluation of new patients begins was used along with school reports and doctor's notes to gather the information. The information was programmed using the S.P.S.S. package. Variables were addressed both for the entire sample and then broken down into five age groups. Results indicated that far from being a simplistic or homogeneous group, these children were complex in their behaviors with most having at least two medical diagnoses. Some had up to four. Subjects were equally represented between preadolescents and adolescents. Significant findings included: almost all children in school were performing below grade level and/or capacity, most disliked school, all but one family was rated as dysfunctional at the time of referral, developmental lags were commonplace in younger children, a history of divorce, separations from caretakers, and alcoholism were common, symptoms were long standing, parents were better able to identify objective behaviors than feelings, many adolescents presented with complex personality disorders rather than neuroses, and that mutual communication was lacking between schools and the medical community. Conclusions included the following: the community at large was not united in its programs to discover, diagnose and remediate those children who were "at risk" for behavior disorders, a more psychoeducational approach to these children would be an alternative approach which could address the child's individual needs, programs addressing the complexity of human behavior need to be initiated, alternate programs for exceptional children who do not assimilate into our schools need to be started, further research on female psychology to address the growing number of female referrals in adolescence who have not been recognized as having problems before is indicated, and long term studies on the effect on legal custody battles on children involved are needed.