Vietnamese parental perceptions of child and adolescent mental illness

Robert S. McKelvey, Loretta V. Baldassar, David L. Sang, Lynne Roberts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Objectives: To determine the symptoms and behaviors in children which are considered psychopathological by Vietnamese parents, to identify professionals and agencies in the community whom Vietnamese parents would consult if their child had a mental illness, and to determine Vietnamese parents' awareness of existing community mental health services. Method: Structured interviews were conducted with a randomized community sample of 283 Vietnamese parents in Perth, Australia. Parents were asked to identify the symptoms and behaviors they considered psychopathological in children, where they would turn for help with a mentally ill child, their knowledge of community mental health services for children, and their understanding of the causes of child psychiatric disorders. Results: Vietnamese parents identified psychotic symptoms, disorientation, and suicidal thoughts and behavior as psychopathological. They preferentially endorsed Western-style treatment approaches but had little awareness of existing community mental health services for children. A biological/chemical imbalance, traumatic experiences, and a metaphysical/spiritual imbalance were identified as the most likely causes of child mental illness. Conclusions: Despite a different cultural tradition, Vietnamese parents appear open to services provided by Western-trained mental health professionals. Their very limited awareness of child and adolescent mental health services in the community, however, may severely limit their utilization of such services.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1302-1309
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number10
StatePublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Child psychopathology
  • Parental perceptions
  • Vietnam

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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