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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 August 2005, 13:15 GMT 14:15 UK
Concern over child mental health
Image of Beth
Beth had severe depression
One in 10 children have a mental health disorder - the same level as five years ago, a survey reveals.

Emotional disorders, such as depression, and conduct problems were the most common, the Office for National Statistics report said.

And the study of five to 16-year-olds in England, Scotland and Wales also found children from single parent and unemployed families were more at risk.

Experts said less punitive approaches were needed to tackle child behaviour.

The results, obtained from nearly 8,000 interviews with families, mirrored the findings of a similar poll in 1999 when a tenth were found to have a mental health disorder.

Tackling poverty is the best way to address many of the problems
Paul Corry, of Rethink

According to the latest statistics, 4% of children had an emotional disorder, 6% a conduct problem, 2% a hyperkinetic disorder, characterised by hyperactive and impulsive behaviour, while 1% had less common problems such as autism and eating disorders. Some children had more than one disorder.

Researchers found boys were more likely to have mental health problems.

One in 10 five to 10-year-old boys had a disorder - twice the rate of girls - while 13% of 11-16-year-old boys had at least one mental health problem, compared to 10% of girls.

Children from single-parent family units were twice as likely to suffer problems than two-parent families.


When neither parent worked, one fifth of children had a mental health problem, compared to 8% when both worked.

The family's type of accommodation also had a bearing, with 17% of those in the social sector and 14% in the private rented sector compared with 7% owning their own homes affected.

The ONS researchers said they hoped the findings would help inform the provision of services.

Paul Corry, of the charity Rethink, said the results were not surprising and called for a reform in the way society deals with children with mental health problems.

He added: "Tackling poverty is the best way to address many of the problems.

"Unfortunately, a lot of the current attempts such as anti-social behaviour orders are punitive and do not give children what they need."

And Margaret Edwards, head of strategy at the mental health charity Sane, said children often found it the most difficult to access health services.

"Calls to our helpline relating to children and young people show significantly higher rates of suicidal thoughts and plans than in older age groups, and greater dissatisfaction with services."

A Department of Health spokeswoman said it was in the middle of a three-year 300m investment programme to improve child and adolescent mental health services.

"This is going towards providing more staff, better services and improving access to services around the country."

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