Prevalence and Correlates of Mental Disorders in a School-Survey Sample

Clinical Practice & Epidemiology in Mental Health 24 Nov 2009 RESEARCH ARTICLE DOI: 10.2174/1745017900905010001



Most of the adult mental disorders have their origins early in life. As the epidemiology of childhood psychiatric disorder in Italy has not been extensively investigated, we have evaluated the prevalence of mental disorders and their association with socio-familiar variables in a representative sample of children aged 6 to 11.


The study was conducted on a school- sample of 1028 children, aged 6 to 11, attending 12 primary schools in Florence (Italy). The diagnoses were made according to DSM IV diagnostic criteria, integrated by the description of each symptom, using specially trained teachers as lay-interviewers. Odds ratios with 95% C.I. chi squares and a stepwise binary logistic analysis have been performed.


Nine hundred ninety nine children (506 males; 493 females) were studied. Of them, 10.5% received a psychiatric diagnosis, with a higher prevalence in males (66.7% vs.33.3, p<0.01). The most prevalent groups of mental disorders were the behavioural/impulse control (7.2%) and anxiety (6.4%) disorders. Attention Deficit with Hyperactivity Disorder was the most represented diagnosis (5.6% of the children). All the other mental disorders were relatively rare, with only separation anxiety and overanxious disorder exceeding 1% prevalence.

Male gender, organic disease, having mother divorced, not present or dead, attending school full-time, cohabitation in the family were associated with an increased risk for any childhood mental disorder.


About one in ten children aged 6-11 suffers from a mental disorder. Male gender, loss of mother and lower socio-economic status are associated with mental disorders in children. Further long-term prospective studies are needed, in order to clarify the epidemiological and psychopathological relationships between childhood and adult mental disorders.

Keywords: Childhood, epidemiology, mental disorder, risk factor.
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