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Accuracy of Parent Mental Health Service Reporting: Results From a Reverse Record-Check Study

Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1097/00004583-199902000-00013
  • Mental Health Services
  • Parent Reporting
  • Validity
  • Research Methods
  • Medicine
  • Psychology


ABSTRACT Objective To examine the feasibility of conducting a reverse record-check study to validate parent reporting on child mental health service use and to examine the accuracy of parent reports of child mental health services. Method Information about child service use was abstracted from medical records and subsequently compared with reports provided by caregivers in telephone interviews. A sample of children using outpatient psychiatric services was compared with a sample of children using outpatient orthopaedic services. Rates and correlates of successful caregiver tracking and of service use reporting accuracy were explored. Results Caregivers of nearly 30% of all index children were contacted and interviewed. Parent reports of lifetime mental health service use were more accurate than reports of lifetime receipt of orthopaedic services. Elapsed time between survey interview and last treatment episode was negatively associated with reporting accuracy. Number of clinic visits was positively associated with reporting accuracy. Preliminary findings suggested that questions about mental health services may be considered sensitive by parents whose children use them. Conclusions Reverse record-check studies based on telephone interviews are potentially problematic with a sample drawn from a large, inner-city medical center. Findings suggest that memory difficulties may be a more important correlate of reporting accuracy than response editing (social desirability). Potential discomfort with disclosure of mental health service use does not result in service use underreporting.

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