A pilot study of early childhood mental health consultation for children with behavioral problems in preschool
Department of Family Medicine and Community Health; Department of Psychiatry; Department of Medicine, Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine
Medical Subject Headings
Interpersonal Relations; Child Behavior; Social Behavior; Child, Preschool; Mental Health; Referral and Consultation; Child Day Care Centers
Education | Mental and Social Health | Psychiatric and Mental Health | Psychiatry and Psychology
This study reports the findings of a pilot demonstration project called Together for Kids, which used a mental health consultation model to address the needs of young children with challenging behaviors who are identified in preschool classrooms. The study was conducted in four preschool programs and one Head Start program serving children ages 3–5, including both private-pay families and those using public subsidies. Rates of significant behavior problems as assessed by preschool teachers using a standardized scale were high, with 34% of all children enrolled in preschool classrooms in these sites over a 3-year period identified at-risk of externalizing or internalizing problems. Classroom teachers, as well as individual children and families identified as at-risk, were provided services, including, classroom observation and teacher training, individual child assessment and therapy, family assessment and support, and referrals for other family needs. Analysis of outcomes for 47 children and families with externalizing behavior problems who received individualized consultation, compared to 89 control children, and analysis of outcomes of a matched group of 19 intervention and 19 control children, revealed that the intervention was associated with significant improvements in classroom aggressive and maladaptive behavior, and growth in adaptive behavior. Improvements in child behavior were associated with total hours of individual child services provided, and with improvements in child developmental skills. Significant reductions in the rate of children suspended or terminated from child care programs were also found. Implications for further development of models of early childhood mental health consultation are discussed.