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Pediatricians’ Self-Reported Role in Treating Children and Adolescents With Major Depressive Disorder: A National Random Survey

Andrea R. Pfalzgraf, MPH, PhD; Virginia Scott, RPh, MS, PhD; Eugene H. Makela, PharmD, BCPP; Steven L. Hartsock, LCSW-C, PhD; Jan Kavookjian, MBA, PhD; and Lesley-Ann Miller, MS, PhD


Objective: Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a serious US public health problem for children and adolescents. This study explored pediatricians’ self-reported role in treating children and adolescents with DSM-IV-TR MDD after the 2004 US Food and Drug Administration black-box warning.

Method: A national random sample of pediatricians (N = 2,000) was surveyed from the beginning of November 2007 through the end of January 2008, with a usable response rate of 22.7% (408 of 1,800 deliverable surveys). Descriptive statistics and χ2 tests were used to analyze the data on treatment versus referral of children and adolescents with MDD and on the proportion of pediatricians in 4 geographic regions who treat children and adolescents with MDD.

Results: The majority of the pediatricians (60.0%, 245 of 408) do not treat either children or adolescents with MDD. Fewer than one-third of the pediatricians (28.2%, 115) reported treating both children and adolescents. The majority of the pediatricians (83.6%, 341) reported referring both children and adolescents to psychiatrists for treatment. The χ2 tests indicate that the proportion of pediatricians who treat children (P = .088) and adolescents (P = .259) does not vary significantly according to the 4 geographic regions analyzed (Northeast, South, Midwest, and West).

Conclusions: On the basis of self-report, the majority of US pediatricians do not treat children and adolescents with MDD but instead refer these patients to psychiatrists. In light of the current shortage of child and adolescent psychiatrists in the United States, referral to these specialists may be problematic.

Prim Care Companion CNS Disord 2012;14(4):doi:10.4088/PCC.11m01332

Submitted: December 9, 2011; accepted March 21, 2012.

Published online: July 26, 2012.

Corresponding author: Andrea R. Pfalzgraf, MPH, PhD, Division of Clinical, Social, and Administrative Sciences, Duquesne University, Mylan School of Pharmacy, 600 Forbes Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15282 (