OBJECTIVE: To examine a proposed pathway to service use among depressed adolescents, this study assessed the effects of (1) parental perceptions of family burden due to adolescents'depression, (2) adolescent-parent communication, (3) parents' depressive symptomatology, and (4) comorbid substance use disorders on parental identification of adolescent depression and use of mental health services. METHOD: A two-stage screening process was used to recruit 44 depressed adolescents and their parents from pediatrics clinics between 1997 and 1999. Measures included structured diagnostic interviews with adolescents, the Child and Adolescent Services Assessment, the Child and Adolescent Functional Assessment Scale, the Beck Depression Inventory (for parents), and the Communication subscale of the Inventory of Parent and Peer Attachment. RESULTS: When history of service use was controlled, two predictors--parental perceptions of family burden and presence of a substance use disorder in the adolescent--were most strongly related to parental depression-identification. The data support the role of parental identification of depression as a mediator between the parent/adolescent characteristics and reports of mental health service use. CONCLUSION: Enhancing parents' abilities to identify and understand signs of depression may facilitate service use among depressed adolescents.
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