Sociology, Department of


Date of this Version



Journal of Adolescent Health 39:3 (September 2006), pp. 427–434; doi:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2006.01.004


Copyright © 2006 Society for Adolescent Medicine; published by Elsevier BV. Used by permission.


Purpose — To investigate the prevalence of mental disorder and comorbidity among American Indian children aged 10–12 years from four U.S. reservations and five Canadian reserves in the Northern Midwest.

Method — Specially trained Native interviewers administered the Diagnostic Interview for Children-Revised for 11 diagnostic categories to 736 tribally enrolled children (mean age 11 years) and their female caretakers.

Results — Prevalence rates are reported by child self-report, female caretaker reports, and combined caretakerchild reports. Twenty-three percent (combined caretaker-child reports) of the children met criteria for one of the 11 disorders and 9% met criteria for two or more of the disorders. Externalizing disorders were more prevalent than internalizing disorders or substance abuse disorders. The strongest predictor of child mental disorder was a depressed female caretaker.

Conclusions — Nearly one-fourth of Native children met criteria for at least one mental disorder. The presence of early mental disorder is an important risk factor for substance use and mental health problems in later life. We need systematic research to identify risk and protective factors for early mental health problems and to identify barriers to services utilization so that we can develop empirically informed, culturally specific prevention programs that address these needs.