NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Single Parents Faulted For Soaring Behavioral Problems

June 6, 2000

The number of U.S. youngsters with emotional and behavioral problems has soared in the past two decades, according to a new study by Kelley Kelleher of the University of Pittsburgh and Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. That development was due, in part, to growing numbers of poor and single-parent households, Kelleher says.

She rejected suggestions that the trend is being noticed only because of doctors' increasing ability to recognize and diagnose such problems.

  • Such conditions as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder were noticed in 6.8 percent of all doctor visits in 1979 -- and grew to 18.7 percent of visits by 1996.
  • Among the 21,065 patients ages 4 to 15 involved in the study, emotional problems such as anxiety and depression increased from a negligible number to 3.6 percent.
  • Within the same time frame, the number of patients in single-family homes rose from 15 percent to 22 percent.

And where just 6 percent of the earlier patients were on Medicaid -- 18 percent of the 1996 patients were.

Source: Associated Press, "Pediatricians See Rise in Behavioral Problems," Washington Times, June 6, 2000.


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