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Mental Disorders and Disabilities Among Low-Income Children

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Children living in poverty are more likely to have mental health problems, and their conditions are more likely to be severe. Of the approximately 1.3 million children who were recipients of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefits in 2013, about 50% were disabled primarily due to a mental disorder. An increase in the number of children who are recipients of SSI benefits due to mental disorders has been observed through several decades of the program beginning in 1985 and continuing through 2010. Nevertheless, less than 1% of children in the United States are recipients of SSI disability benefits for a mental disorder.

At the request of the Social Security Administration, Mental Disorders and Disability Among Low-Income Children compares national trends in the number of children with mental disorders with the trends in the number of children receiving benefits from the SSI program, and describes the possible factors that may contribute to any differences between the two groups. This report provides an overview of the current status of the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders, and the levels of impairment in the U.S. population under age 18. The report focuses on 6 mental disorders, chosen due to their prevalence and the severity of disability attributed to those disorders within the SSI disability program: attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, oppositional defiant disorder/conduct disorder, autism spectrum disorder, intellectual disability, learning disabilities, and mood disorders. While this report is not a comprehensive discussion of these disorders, Mental Disorders and Disability Among Low-Income Children provides the best currently available information regarding demographics, diagnosis, treatment, and expectations for the disorder time course - both the natural course and under treatment.


Suggested Citation

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2015. Mental Disorders and Disabilities Among Low-Income Children. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

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Publication Info

472 pages |6 x 9
  • Paperback: 978-0-309-37685-3
  • Ebook: 978-0-309-37688-4

Table of Contents

skim chapter
Front Matter i-xx
Summary 1-18
Part I: Background and Context of the Supplemental Security Income Disability Benefit Program for Children 19-20
1 Introduction 21-30
2 The SSI Program for Children 31-70
3 National-Level Trends in the SSI Program for Children with Mental Disorders, 20042013 71-90
4 State Variation in the SSI Program for Children 91-104
5 Poverty and Childhood Disability 105-124
Part II: Clinical Characteristics of Selected Mental Disorders 125-134
6 Clinical Characteristics of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder 135-148
7 Clinical Characteristics of Oppositional Defiant Disorder and Conduct Disorder 149-156
8 Clinical Characteristics of Autism Spectrum Disorder 157-168
9 Clinical Characteristics of Intellectual Disabilities 169-178
10 Clinical Characteristics of Learning Disabilities 179-188
11 Clinical Characteristics of Mood Disorders 189-206
Part III: Prevalence of Selected Mental Disorders 207-210
12 Prevalence of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder 211-226
13 Prevalence of Oppositional Defiant Disorder and Conduct Disorder 227-240
14 Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder 241-266
15 Prevalence of Intellectual Disabilities 267-280
16 Prevalence of Learning Disabilities 281-294
17 Prevalence of Mood Disorders 295-310
Part IV: Medicaid Analytic eXtract Study 311-314
18 Medicaid Analytic eXtract Study 315-348
Appendixes 349-350
Appendix A: Deeming Eligibility Chart for Children 351-352
Appendix B: SSA Childhood Mental Disorders Listing of Impairments 353-374
Appendix C: The Listing of Impairments - Overview 375-388
Appendix D: Surveys and Surveillance Systems That Collect Data on Mental Disorders Among Children 389-400
Appendix E: Initial Allowance, Initial Determination, Allowance Rate, and Recipient Data for 10 Major Mental Disorders 401-408
Appendix F: Medicaid Analytic eXtract Methods 409-420
Appendix G: Medicaid Analytic eXtract Results 421-440
Appendix H: Committee and Consultant Biographies 441-452

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