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Many At-Risk Children Are Not Receiving Clinical Services

MONDAY, March 22, 2021 -- Large proportions of children with high levels of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), high distress symptoms, or both are not receiving clinical services, according to a study published online March 15 in JAMA Network Open.

David Finkelhor, Ph.D., from the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, and colleagues estimated the proportion of children with either high levels of ACEs and/or high levels of mental health symptoms who were not receiving services from behavioral health professionals in a cross-sectional study involving 11,896 children who participated in three National Surveys of Children's Exposure to Violence (2008, 2011, and 2014).

The researchers found that among children aged 2 to 9 years, no clinical contact was reported for 57, 53, and 41 percent of the high ACE group, the high distress symptom group, and a group with high levels of both indicators, respectively. Among children aged 10 to 17 years, no clinical contact was reported for 63, 52, and 62 percent of the high ACE group, the high distress symptom group, and youth with high scores on both indicators, respectively. Compared with non-Hispanic White children of the same age and exposure, Black children aged 2 to 9 years with high levels of ACEs had very low odds of contact (odds ratio, 0.26).

"Many high-risk children and youth with serious behavioral symptoms and conditions known to lead to poor health outcomes were not receiving services that could help reduce their risk," the authors write.

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