Emotional, Behavioral Disorders in U.S. Children Undertreated

In the United States, 11% to 20% of children have a mental or behavioral disorder. However, only an estimated one in eight children receives treatment.

The American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) has released new screening guidelines to encourage increased screening and possible changes to provide better treatment for children with behavioral and emotional disorders, according to a clinical report published in Pediatrics.

Most pediatricians agree that they should be responsible for diagnosing behavioral and emotional disorders in their patients, but only 13% of pediatricians reported confidence in their training and ability to manage these disorders.

To ensure that pediatricians are prepared to screen for and treat these disorders, the AAP recommends that pediatricians take the following steps:

  1. Prepare their practice to adopt screening procedures.
  2. Identify the resources that will need to be used in case of a positive screening result.
  3. Establish office routines for regular screening of each patient based on their age and risk factors.
  4. Track referrals to ensure that patients are receiving the necessary treatment.
  5. Seek appropriate additional payment to compensate for the extra time and work that screening creates.
  6. Foster collaboration as new technology emerges and makes it possible to optimize the management of these disorders.

The AAP believes that these recommendations will encourage pediatricians to more effectively diagnose and treat behavioral and emotional disorders in all stages of childhood and adolescence.


  1. Weitzman, C et al. Pediatrics. 2015; doi: 10.1542/peds.2014-3716.