Good emotional and behavioral health enhances a child's sense of well-being, supports satisfying social relationships at home and with peers, and facilitates achievement of full academic potential.120 Children with emotional or behavioral difficulties may have problems managing their emotions, focusing on tasks, and/or controlling their behavior. These difficulties, which may persist throughout a child's development and can lead to lifelong problems, are usually noticed first by parents.121 Parents play a crucial role in informing health professionals about a child's emotional and behavioral difficulties and obtaining mental health services.122
NOTE: Children with serious emotional or behavioral difficulties are defined as those whose parent responded "yes, definite" or "yes, severe" to the following question on the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ):123 "Overall, do you think that (child) has difficulties in any of the following areas: emotions, concentration, behavior, or being able to get along with other people?" Response choices were: (1) no; (2) yes, minor difficulties; (3) yes, definite difficulties; (4) yes, severe difficulties. These difficulties may be similar to but do not equate with the Federal definition of serious emotional disturbances (SED), used by the Federal government for planning purposes.
SOURCE: National Center for Health Statistics, National Health Interview Survey.
120 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (1999). Mental health: A report of the Surgeon General. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Mental Health Services, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved from http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/mentalhealth/home.html.
121 New Freedom Commission on Mental Health. (2003). Achieving the promise: Transforming mental health care in America. Final Report (DHHS Pub. No. SMA-03-3832). Rockville, MD: Department of Health and Human Services.
122 Sayal, K. (2006). Annotation: Pathways to care for children with mental health problems. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 47, 649–659.
123 Goodman, R. (1999). The extended version of the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire as a guide to child psychiatric caseness and consequent burden. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 40, 791–799.