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Early childhood mental health and aetiology

Aetiology

There is consensus that some genetic predisposition exists. Although family factors have also been implicated, their role in severe cases is unclear. Birth complications and diet play a part in a minority of cases. Assessment is usually preceded by collecting information using the Conners’ Teacher’s and Parent’s Questionnaires. These questionnaires are used to screen children referred to the clinic prior to an appointment. The scores on the questionnaires are not diagnostic and cannot be used as a substitute for clinical assessment. At the clinic, a full psychiatric history needs to be taken with particular emphasis on attention, activity levels and impulsiveness. The history should include details on parenting style, attachment patterns and social relationships. School reports from teachers are a valuable source of information as the problems may present themselves mainly in the school setting. Details of classroom behaviour, organizational skills and peer relationships can often confirm parents’ concerns about hyperactivity.

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