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research question: systems theory


3 pages on identifying a problem facing society (mental health prevention in children) and a systems theory approach to the problem, I have provided most of the research and outline already, just need to synthesize and write.

APA format and references.

Scope of Problem:

How can teaching and improving social skills in children prevent the development of mental health issues? Supported by research

“The Need for a Preventive Focus in Child Mental Health
Interest in prevention is also reflected in the goals that have been set for our nation’s
health. One of the original objectives of Healthy People 2000 was to reduce the prevalence of
mental health disorders in children and adolescents to less than 17%, from an estimated 20%
among youth younger than 18 in 1992 (DHHS, 1991). As of 1997, the summary list of mental
health objectives for Healthy People 2000 included reducing suicides to no more than 8.2 per
100,000 youth (aged 15-19) and reducing the incidence of injurious suicide attempts among
adolescents to 1.8% and, more specifically, to 2.0% among female adolescents (DHHS, 1997). A
number of other objectives were related to child and adolescent mental health. One of the risk
reduction objectives in the Violent and Abusive Behavior category was to reduce the incidence of
physical fighting among adolescents aged 14-17 from a baseline of 137 incidents per 100,000 high
school students per month to 110 per 100,000 (DHHS, 1997). Two additional objectives in this
category were to increase to at least 50% the proportion of elementary and secondary schools
that include nonviolent conflict resolution skills and to extend violence prevention programs to at
least 80% of local jurisdictions with populations over 100,000 (DHHS, 1997). It is unlikely that
these goals will be met by the year 2000.
There is growing concern in our country as increasing numbers of children and adolescents
are having difficulty managing the challenges of development. Between 12% and 22% of
America’s youth under age 18 are in need of mental health services (National Advisory Mental
Health Council, 1990), and an estimated 7.5 million children and adolescents suffer from one or
more mental disorders (OTA, 1986). In addition to the personal suffering experienced by children
with emotional or behavioral problems and their families, mental health disorders also have a
tremendous cost to society. According to the National Advisory Mental Health Council (1990),
in 1990 mental illness cost the United States an estimated 74.9 billion dollars.
Prevention of Mental Disorders – 6/00
While a number of recent reviews (e.g. Kazdin & Weisz, 1998; or see special issue of
Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 27, 1998) and meta-analyses (Casey & Berman, 1985;
Kazdin, Bass, Ayers, & Rogers, 1990; Weisz, Weiss, Alicke, & Klotz, 1987; Weisz, Weiss, Han,
Granger, & Morton, 1995) provide evidence that childhood disorders are amenable to treatment,
the literature must be interpreted cautiously. There is still a great deal to be learned about specific
types of treatments, their appropriateness for certain disorders, and the factors that contribute to
treatment success and failure. We have not reached the point where we are able to serve all
children effectively. As suggested by the Institute of Medicine in their report to Congress on the
state of prevention research in mental health, it is important not to overlook the significance of
prevention even if treatment efforts have been unsuccessful; in fact, prevention may play a
particularly important role for these types of disorders (IOM, 1994).
It is clear that to reduce levels of childhood mental illness, interventions need to begin
earlier, or ideally, preventive interventions need to be provided prior to the development of
significant symptomology. In addition, efforts need to be increased to reach the many children
that do not have access to treatment. Many children and adolescents with clinical levels of
problems never receive appropriate mental health services or they receive inappropriate services
(Knitzer, 1985; Tuma, 1989). Another problem with service delivery is that some children only
become eligible for therapeutic services after they have entered another system such as special
education or juvenile court and this is usually after their problems have begun to escalate”

Mental Health Prevention through teaching of social skills (social and emotional learning):

“General social/emotional cognitive skill-building programs A number of the programs
identified in our review focus on generic social/emotional cognitive skill-building as a means to
reduce psychopathology, a wide range of deleterious outcomes which share common risk factors,
as well as to promote social/emotional competence. As research, experience and practicality have
dictated, these programs are often school-based and directed at elementary students.”

“Protective factors are variables that reduce the
likelihood of maladaptive outcomes under conditions of risk. Although less is known about
protective factors and their operation (Rutter, 1985; Kazdin, 1991; Luthar, 1993), at least three
broad domains of protective factors have been identified. The first domain includes characteristics
of the individual such as cognitive skills, social-cognitive skills, temperamental characteristics, and
social skills (Luthar & Zigler, 1992). The quality of the child’s interactions with the environment
comprise the second domain. These interactions include secure attachments to parents (Morissett,
Barnard, Greenberg, Booth, & Speiker, 1990) and attachments to peers or other adults who
engage in positive health behaviors and have prosocial values. A third protective domain involves
aspects of the mesosystem and exosystem, such as school-home relations, quality schools, and
regulatory activities. Similar to risk factors, some protective factors may be more malleable and
thus, more effective targets for prevention.
Coie et al. (1993) suggested that protective factors may work in one or more of the
following four ways: directly decrease dysfunction; interact with risk factors to buffer their
effects; disrupt the mediational chain by which risk leads to disorder; or prevent the initial
occurrence of risk factors. By specifying links between protective factors, positive outcomes, and
reduced problem behaviors, prevention researchers may more successfully identify relevant targets
for intervention (Coie et al., 1993; Dryfoos, 1990).
The specification of intervention goals is an important component of preventiveintervention
research and practice. This requires both an understanding of risk and protective
factors that contribute to outcomes, and also the identification of competencies that are presumed
mediators or goals of the intervention. Although these goals may include the prevention of
difficulties (e.g., absence of psychopathology, abstention from substance use), they also involve
the promotion of healthy developmental outcomes (Pittman & Cahill, 1992). Further, the
prevention of deleterious outcomes involves the enhancement of competency mediators (e.g.,
effective social problem-solving as a mediator of reductions in delinquency).”

Who is affected, How are they affected, What’s
the economic impact of the problem, and why is it a problem?

All information needed on this website: http://www.nccp.org/publications/pub_929.html talk about the prevalence and impact on the individual, family, and community level, economic costs of treatment later in life opposed to prevention, in severe cases incarcerations -> cost of criminal justice system

Systems Framework (Use a systems-oriented theoretical framework to conceptualize the presenting problem
and describe its potential ecological causes. That is, what are the individual, familial,
community and social factors)


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