Social Functioning as a Mediator for Child and Adolescent Mental Health

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Background: A range of psychosocial risk factors have been identified for the onset and development of childhood psychopathology. Disruptive family environments, poor parenting, parental wellbeing and mental health, and childhood adversity and trauma, while individually and collectively have been shown to be hazardous for childhood mental health, may more meaningfully affect psychological debilitation and distress through their impact on childhood social functioning.
Method: Using data from the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Survey (2004) the current study analysed the mediating effect of three measures of childhood social functioning on associations between a broad range of psychosocial risk factors and a general measure of childhood psychopathology.
Results: Childhood social functioning, assessed by measures of the children’s social aptitude, peer problems, and friendship status, successfully mediated the relationships between a general measure of the children’s mental health status and measures of the children’s traumatic experiences, the children’s family functioning, their parents mental health status and history, and their parents’ social functioning.
Discussion: The findings support a social functioning, or risk related maladaptive functioning model of childhood psychopathology and compliment existing findings that prioritise social functioning measurement in relation to evaluations of risk assessment, treatment efficacy, and developmental and therapeutic outcomes in children.
Implications: This study provides supporting evidence for interventions that seek to enhance social functioning as a primary preventative measure for the onset of childhood psychopathology and as a rehabilitation focus post diagnosis. The study findings also support the need for an encompassing family package of assessment and care in the management of child mental health welfare.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Publication statusSubmitted - 26 Sep 2017

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