Child, Youth, and Family Studies, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in Journal of Child and Family Studies 26 (2017), pp. 317–328. doi: 10.1007/s10826-016-0548-9


Copyright © 2016 Springer Science+Business Media New York. Used by permission.


High levels of psychotropic medication use and polypharmacy are common for emotionally and behaviorally troubled youth entering residential care. Polypharmacy has often been characterized as an especially serious problem in this vulnerable population. Latent Class Analysis was used to identify medication subgroups for 636 youth in an intensive residential program. Additionally, auxiliary analyses (e.g., diagnoses, demographics, expressed problem behaviors) were used to identify the personal and behavioral attributes associated with individuals in each of the latent classes. Three distinct medication patterns emerged: low/no psychotropic medication, the combination of antidepressant and antipsychotic medications, and multiple psychotropic medications. The latent classes were significantly different from one another on 12 of the 14 variables, helping explicate how patient and clinical characteristics underlie patterns of psychotropic medication use. Findings of this study, combined with additional research, hold promise for leading to improved, youth-centered prescribing practices. Our findings also highlight the need for careful monitoring of the types and range of medications that some youth are prescribed, and research on how youth with certain background characteristics are more likely to get prescribed multiple psychotropic medications. For youth experiencing higher levels of psychotropic polypharmacy, medication regimens need thoughtful reassessment using the principle of sufficiency as the foundation for medication management.