Samms-Vaughan, Maureen E.; Milbourn, Pauline
Author Affiliation, Ana.
Behavioural and Emotional Disorders
Caribbean Childhoods From Research to Action Journal of the Children's Issues Coalition
Date of Publication
Adult anti-social behaviours of crime and violence can be traced to difficult behaviour in childhood. Behaviour and emotional disorders affect a large proportion of the childhood population, ranging from 15 to 22 per cent in developed and developing countries, respectively. Early intervention has proved to be beneficial, but this must be preceded by early detection of behavioural problems. Studies show that clinical judgement does not adequately identify developmental and behavioural disorders in children. As a result, the use of validated screening tools at each health supervision or well-child visit is recommended. The prevalence of behaviour disorders among the Jamaican population is similar to the rest of the world (12-14 per cent identified by questionnaire and 8.4 per cent by parent report) at 6 years but only 0.5 per cent of those identified at 6 years are receiving services. Children from higher social classes are more likely to access services. The most common developmental and behaviour disorders seen are ADHD, learning disorders, child abuse, adjustment disorders, disruptive disorders, mental retardation and autism. Risk factors are similar to those found elsewhere and include prenatal, parenting, environmental and health factors. Parental factors, particularly parental stress, had the strongest association with behavioural disorders in a study of Jamaican 6-year-olds. Jamaica has many challenges to face in developing an adequate screening system for child behavioural and emotional disorders. At the governmental level a policy on child mental (or developmental) health needs to be developed. Only limited tools for monitoring and screening for developmental and behavioural disorders are in routine use in the health and educational systems. There are inadequate data collection facilities. At the tertiary level there are very few trained child mental health personnel. However, there are also many strengths. Parents and the extended family are a resource that is under-utilised at the primary level. Community clinics are available and accessible and are well utilised for children's medical health care. The development of a comprehensive screening programme for children's behavioural and emotional health as part of a national screening progrramme is recommended. Components of such a programme should include parental education and screening programmes at health centres and pre-schools as well as training of personnel at all levels.....