Article Analyzes Prevalence of Development and Behavioral Disorders in a Pediatric Hospital

March 15, 2009

"The prevalence of DBDs [developmental and behavioral disorders] in children admitted to a pediatric hospital was higher than that expected for children in the general population, with [approximately] 10% of hospitalized children in this sample being identified as having a suspected DBD," write the authors of an article published in the March 2009 issue of Pediatrics. Individuals with developmental disabilities (DDs) have more hospitalizations than the average population. For this reason, it is expected that the prevalence of DDs among children who are admitted to pediatric hospitals would be higher, compared with their counterparts in the general population. Information about the prevalence of DDs in children admitted to pediatric hospitals is limited. In the cross-sectional, prospective study described in this article, the authors sought to determine the prevalence of DBDs among children in an acute care, pediatric hospital setting.

The study was conducted at a 225-bed pediatric hospital that serves a 6-state region in the southern United States. Data were collected from a convenience sample of 325 caregivers of hospitalized infants, children, and adolescents ages 6 months through 17 years. Caregivers completed a questionnaire about their child. Screening tests included the Child Development Inventory, the Pediatric Symptom Checklist, and the Vanderbilt Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Parent Rating Scale. Infants, children, and adolescents were classified into one of three categories: known DBD, suspected DBD, or no DBD.

The authors found that

  • Of the 325 infants, children, and adolescents screened, 72 (22.2%) were assigned to the known DBD category, and 37 (11.4%) were assigned to the suspected DBD category.
  • The prevalence of cerebral palsy in the sample was 6.1%, compared with an expected population prevalence of 0.15% to 0.25%.
  • The prevalence of mental retardation or developmental delay in the sample was 8.6%, compared with an expected population prevalence of 1.5% to 3.0%.
  • The authors conclude that "hospital admission should be considered another opportunity for developmental surveillance, and strategies for implementing systematic developmental and behavioral screening of hospitalized children should be examined."

Petersen MC, Kube DA, Whitaker TM, et al. 2009. Prevalence of developmental and behavioral disorders in a pediatric hospital. Pediatrics 123(3):e490-e495. Abstract available here.


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