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Examining ethnic disparities in provider and parent in-session participation engagement

Kelsey S. Dickson (Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Diego, California, USA and Child and Adolescent Services Research Center, San Diego, California, USA)
Sasha M. Zeedyk (Department of Child and Adolescent Studies, California State University, Fullerton, California, USA)
Jonathan Martinez (Department of Psychology, California State University, Northridge, Los Angeles, California, USA)
Rachel Haine-Schlagel (Department of Child and Family Development, San Diego State University, San Diego, California, USA) (Child and Adolescent Services Research Center, San Diego, California, USA)

Journal of Children's Services

ISSN: 1746-6660

Article publication date: 20 March 2017




Well-documented ethnic disparities exist in the identification and provision of quality services among children receiving community-based mental health services. These disparities extend to parent treatment engagement, an important component of effective mental health services. Currently, little is known about differences in how providers support parents’ participation in treatment and the degree to which parents actively participate in it. The purpose of this paper is to examine potential differences in both provider and parent in-session participation behaviours.


Participants included 17 providers providing standard community-based mental health treatment for 18 parent-child dyads, with 44 per cent of the dyads self-identifying as Hispanic/Latino. In-session participation was measured with the parent participation engagement in child psychotherapy and therapist alliance, collaboration, and empowerment strategies observational coding systems.


Overall, results indicate significantly lower levels of parent participation behaviours among Hispanic/Latino families compared to their Non-Hispanic/Non-Latino counterparts. No significant differences were seen in providers’ in-session behaviours to support parent participation across Hispanic/Latino and Non-Hispanic/Non-Latino families.

Research limitations/implications

These findings contribute to the literature on ethnic differences in parent treatment engagement by utilising measures of in-session provider and parent behaviours and suggest that further investigation is warranted to documenting and understanding ethnic disparities in parents’ participation in community-based child mental health treatment.


This paper contributes to the evaluation of differences in parent treatment engagement through demonstrating the utility of an in-session observational coding system as a measure of treatment engagement.



This study was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health of the National Institutes of Health under award number K23MH080149 (PI: Haine-Schlagel). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. The authors would like to acknowledge Lauren Brookman-Frazee, PhD, Cristina Bustos, PhD, Amy Drahota, PhD, Ann Garland, PhD, and Cortney Janicki for their contributions to this project as well as the participating clinics, therapists, and families. No conflicts of interest exist.


Dickson, K.S., Zeedyk, S.M., Martinez, J. and Haine-Schlagel, R. (2017), "Examining ethnic disparities in provider and parent in-session participation engagement", Journal of Children's Services, Vol. 12 No. 1, pp. 47-58.



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Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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