Where do Latinx Caregivers Turn When Their Children Need Mental Health Care? New Study Has Answers

Vázquez, A. L., Navarro Flores, C. M., Alvarez, M. C., González Vera, J. M., Barrett, T. S., & Domenech Rodríguez, M. M. (2021). Youth mental health service preferences and Utilization patterns among Latinx caregivers. Children and Youth Services Review. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2021.106258

Summarized by Ariel Ervin

Notes of Interest:

  • Many Latinx families face barriers in receiving mental health services (MHS) for their children.
  • This study examines the MHS utilization preferences and patterns of Latinx caregivers based on the following factors: youth problem types, family traits, and barriers to care.
  • Despite the fact that psychological counseling is the preferred method of addressing youth psychopathology, many youths with clinically elevated psychopathy didn’t use these services.
  • Caregivers were more likely to have a perceived need for and use MHS when youths experience clinically elevated internalizing problems. This wasn’t the case if the youth had externalizing problems.
  • Most of the caregivers stated that they needed frequent support from family, friends, school professionals, psychological counseling, medical doctors, and parenting classes.
    • A majority of the caregivers went to family, friends, school professionals, psychological counseling, and medical doctors for support.
  • Although Latinx caregivers use a myriad of services for youth psychopathology, a majority of them still prefer psychological counseling compared to other forms of support.
  • Integrating youth psychological counseling into services that Latinx caregivers prefer can help increase the utilization of MHS among them.
  • It’s important to make psychological services more accessible as well.

Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)

Latinx caregivers underutilize traditional youth mental health services (MHS) relative to their White counterparts. Disparities may be explained by barriers preventing engagement in traditional MHS. A potential mismatch between available services and preferred culturally appropriate healing practices may also contribute to treatment disparities. The current study examined Latinx caregivers’ perceived need for and utilization of support services in relation to family characteristics, youth problem-type, and barriers to care. Findings were contextualized by assessing caregiver preferences for addressing youth psychopathology. The study consisted of 598 Latinx caregivers from across the United States. Descriptive statistics and binary logistic regression models were used to conduct exploratory analyses. The most frequently used sources of support for youths were medical doctors, school professionals, family or friends, psychological counseling or therapy, and parenting classes. Caregiver perceived need and utilization of services was generally greater among youth with clinically elevated internalizing or externalizing problems. While Latinx caregivers report needing and utilizing a variety of services to address youth psychopathology, they frequently ranked psychological counseling as their most preferred format. Problem-specific service need, and utilization was found for medical (i.e., clinical internalizing problems) and religious services (i.e., minister or faith healer; clinical externalizing problems). Youth and family characteristics and barriers to care were differentially associated with service need and utilization across formats. Our findings suggest a need to increase access to youth psychological counseling services among Latinxs and highlight additional avenues for integrating MHS into formats that caregivers frequently report needing and utilizing.

Implications (Reprinted from the Discussion)

Our understanding of service utilization patterns thus far has increased our awareness of

racial/ethnic groups utilization patterns (Gudiño et al., 2009; Gudiño et al., 2012) and the reasons why certain groups such as Latinx do not access traditional MHS (Kapke & Gerdes, 2016). This study expands on prior research by focusing on an understudied racial/ethnic subpopulation with significant within group variability and considers the critical intersection between client characteristics, service utilization patterns, and preferences in terms of treatment. Our findings provide information on service utilization patterns and preferences among Latinx caregivers that may clarify important targets for eliminating mental health disparities within this group. While Latinx caregivers ranked psychological counseling as their most preferred method for addressing youth psychopathology (i.e., externalizing and internalizing), many youths with clinically elevated psychopathology did not access these services. Caregivers also reported needing and utilizing a wide range of support services to address youth psychopathology. These findings signal a need to improve access to youth psychological counseling among Latinxs. Results also highlight potential opportunities to provide evidence-based interventions through a broader array of service formats that Latinx caregivers report needing and utilizing.


Caregivers in our sample most frequently reported needing support from medical doctors,

school professionals, family or friends, psychological counseling, and parenting classes.

Caregivers primarily utilized medical doctors, family or friends, school professionals, and

psychological counseling. The odds of utilizing services were largely increased by both youth

problem types (i.e., clinical externalizing and internalizing problems). Building on prior work

(Gudiño et al., 2012; Vázquez & Villodas, 2019), we did find problem-specific service

utilization patterns among Latinx caregivers. Caregivers were more likely to perceive a need for

and utilize medical services for their youth when they had clinically elevated internalizing

problems but not externalizing. We also found that perceived need and utilization of ministers or

faith healers were specifically associated with externalizing problems. These findings highlight

the complexity of service utilization among Latinx caregivers.


To access this article, click here.