Publications relevant to the PAEDS project will be posted here when they become available. If you have trouble accessing any of the academic articles, please email Dr Cliodhna O’Connor, who will be happy to provide you with a copy.

Title: Lived Experiences of Diagnostic Shifts in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Contexts: a Qualitative Interview Study with Young People and Parents
Journal: Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology
Year: 2020
Abstract: Psychiatric diagnoses are important resources in helping young people and families make sense of emotional or behavioural difficulties. However, the poor reliability of diagnoses in childhood means many young service-users experience their diagnosis being removed, revised or supplemented over time. No previous research has investigated how young service-users experience, understand or respond to alteration of their original diagnosis. The current study adopted a qualitative approach to explore the lived experience of diagnostic shifts in youth mental health contexts. Narrative interviews were conducted with families living in Ireland, who had direct experience of diagnostic shifts. Participants included 21 parents (19 female) and 14 young people (8 female, mean age = 14). Thematic analysis explored the range of interpretations and implications of diagnostic shifts in families’ lives, identifying three themes that underpinned participants’ narratives. Diverse Trajectories & Experiences outlined the variety of contexts for diagnostic shifts, ways they were communicated to parents and young people, and their clinical consequences. A Process of Readjustment captured processes of emotional and conceptual adaptation that followed a diagnostic shift. Finally, Social Repositioning explored how diagnostic shifts could prompt changes to interpersonal relations, social identity and stigma experiences. The study shows that diagnostic shifts carry significant emotional, social and practical repercussions. While diagnostic shifts may threaten the therapeutic relationship and service-user understanding, they also offer opportunities to enhance young people’s self-concept, social relationships and therapeutic engagement. Clinician awareness of the socio-emotional implications of diagnostic shifts is vital to inform sensitive communication and support strategies.
Title: Diagnostic trajectories in child and adolescent mental health services: exploring the prevalence and patterns of diagnostic adjustments in an electronic mental health case register
Journal: European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
Year: 2020
Abstract: Community-based epidemiological studies show transitions between psychiatric disorders are common during child development. However, little research has explored the prevalence or patterns of the diagnostic adjustments that occur in child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS). Understanding diagnostic trajectories is necessary to inform theory development in developmental psychopathology and clinical judgements regarding risk and prognosis. In this study, data from CAMHS clinical records were extracted from a British mental health case register (N = 12,543). Analysis calculated the proportion of children whose clinical records showed a longitudinal diagnostic adjustment (i.e. addition of a subsequent diagnosis of a different diagnostic class, at > 30 days’ distance from their first diagnosis). Regression analyses investigated typical diagnostic sequences and their relationships with socio-demographic variables, service use and standardised measures of mental health. Analysis found that 19.3% of CAMHS attendees had undergone a longitudinal diagnostic adjustment. Ethnicity, diagnostic class and symptom profiles significantly influenced the likelihood of a diagnostic adjustment. Affective and anxiety/stress-related disorders longitudinally predicted each other, as did hyperkinetic and conduct disorders, and hyperkinetic and pervasive developmental disorders. Results suggest that approximately one in five young service users have their original psychiatric diagnosis revised or supplemented during their time in CAMHS. By revealing the most common diagnostic sequences, this study enables policy makers to anticipate future service needs and clinicians to make informed projections about their patients’ likely trajectories. Further research is required to understand how young people experience diagnostic adjustments and their psychological and pragmatic implications.
Title: Documenting diagnosis in child and adolescent mental healthcare: A content analysis of diagnostic statements in a psychiatric case register
Journal: Children and Youth Services Review
Year: 2020
Abstract: Understanding clinical practice in relation to psychiatric diagnosis is important for identifying avenues for service improvement, developing clinically valid research methods and informing debate about prevailing diagnostic systems. Minimal research has explored psychiatric diagnostic practice by studying the diagnostic information present in clinical records. This study identifies, quantifies and descriptively analyses the range of contexts in which diagnostic terms appear in free-text child and adolescent clinical notes. Text segments containing a diagnostic term (N = 2993) were extracted from children’s electronic health records and subjected to content analysis. Segments were coded as indicating: definite diagnostic confirmations (49.4%), qualified diagnostic confirmations (6.4%), diagnostic queries/assessment (16.9%), definite diagnostic exclusions (3.1%), qualified diagnostic exclusions (2.2%), diagnostic status of another person (13.5%), or clinically irrelevant text (8.6%). Qualitative content analysis explored the linguistic patterns characterising these contexts of use. Results are considered in terms of their implications for service delivery, sociological analyses of psychiatric diagnosis, and the opportunities and challenges posed by applications of natural language processing techniques to electronic health records.
Title: What Differentiates Children with ADHD Symptoms Who Do and Do Not Receive a Formal Diagnosis? Results from a Prospective Longitudinal Cohort Study
Journal: Child Psychiatry & Human Development
Year: 2019
Abstract: ADHD diagnoses are increasing worldwide, in patterns involving both overdiagnosis of some groups and underdiagnosis of others. The current study uses data from a national longitudinal study of Irish children (N = 8568) to examine the sociodemographic, clinical and psychological variables that differentiate children with high hyperactivity/inattention symptoms, who had and had not received a diagnosis of ADHD. Analysis identified no significant differences in the demographic characteristics or socio-emotional wellbeing of 9-year-olds with hyperactivity/inattention who had and who had not received a diagnosis of ADHD. However, by age 13, those who had held a diagnosis at 9 years showed more emotional and peer relationship problems, worse prosocial behaviour, and poorer self-concept. Further research is required to clarify the developmental pathways responsible for these effects.

Title: How does psychiatric diagnosis affect young people’s self-concept and social identity? A systematic review and synthesis of the qualitative literature
Journal: Social Science & Medicine
Year: 2018
Abstract: Receiving a psychiatric diagnosis in childhood or adolescence can have numerous social, emotional and practical repercussions. Among the most important of these are the implications for a young person’s self-concept and social identity. To ensure diagnoses are communicated and managed in a way that optimally benefits mental health trajectories, understanding young people’s first-hand experience of living with a diagnosis is paramount. This systematic review collates, evaluates and synthesises the qualitative research that has explored how psychiatric diagnosis interacts with young people’s self-concept and social identity. A search of 10 electronic databases identified 3892 citations, 38 of which met inclusion criteria. The 38 studies were generally evaluated as moderate-to-high quality research. Thematic synthesis of their findings highlighted the multifaceted ways diagnosis affects young people’s self-concept and social identity. Diagnosis can sometimes threaten and devalue young people’s self-concept, but can also facilitate self-understanding, self-legitimation and self-enhancement. A diagnosis can lead to social alienation, invalidation and stigmatisation, yet can also promote social identification and acceptance. Further research is needed to clarify which self and identity outcomes can be expected in a given set of circumstances, and to establish how self and identity effects interact with diagnoses’ other clinical, practical, social and emotional consequences.
Title: A prospective longitudinal investigation of the (dis)continuity of mental health difficulties between mid- to late-childhood and the predictive role of familial factors
Journal: European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
Year: 2018
Abstract: Understanding individual variation in the continuity of youth mental health difficulties is critical for identifying the factors that promote recovery or chronicity. This study establishes the proportion of children showing psychopathology at 9 years, whose pathology had either remitted or persisted at 13. It describes the socio-demographic and clinical profiles of these groups, and examines the factors in 9-year-olds’ familial environments that predict longitudinal remission vs. persistence of psychopathology. The study utilised data from a prospective longitudinal study of 8568 Irish children. Child psychopathology was assessed using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ). Analysis established the rates of continuity of SDQ classifications between 9 and 13 years. Analysis also investigated the familial factors that predicted the remission vs. persistence of psychopathological symptoms, controlling for socio-demographic and child factors. Average SDQ scores improved between the ages of 9 and 13, F(1, 7292) = 276.52, p < 0.001. Of children classified Abnormal aged 9, 41.1% remained so classified at 13, 21.4% were reclassified Borderline, and 37.6% Normal. Demographic and child risk factors for persistence of pathology were maleness (β = −1.00, p = 0.001, CI = 0.20–0.67), one-carer households (β = −0.71, p = 0.04, CI = 0.25–0.97), poor physical health (β = −0.64, p = 0.03, CI = 0.30–0.92), and low cognitive ability (β = 0.61, p = 0.002, CI = 1.26–2.70). Controlling for these factors, the only familial variable at 9 years that predicted subsequent pathological persistence was caregiver depression (β = −0.07, p = 0.03, CI = 0.87–0.99). The analysis highlights substantial rates of psychopathological discontinuity in a community sample and identifies the children most at risk of chronic mental health problems. These results will inform the targeting of early interventions and distribution of clinical resources.