Care Across the Lifespan I

 Comprehensive Integrated Psychiatric Assessment 

Discussion: Comprehensive Integrated Psychiatric Assessment

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Many assessment principles are the same for children and adults; however, unlike with adults/older adults, where consent for participation in the assessment comes from the actual client, with children it is the parents or guardians who must make the decision for treatment. Issues of confidentiality, privacy, and consent must be addressed. When working with children, it is not only important to be able to connect with the pediatric patient, but also to be able to collaborate effectively with the caregivers, other family members, teachers, and school counselors/psychologists, all of whom will be able to provide important context and details to aid in your assessment and treatment plans.

Some children/adolescents may be more difficult to assess than adults, as they can be less psychologically minded. That is, they have less insights into themselves and their motivations than adults (although this is not universally true). The PMHNP must also take into consideration the child’s culture and environmental context. Additionally, with children/adolescents, there are lower rates of neurocognitive disorders superimposed on other clinical conditions, such as depression or anxiety, which create additional diagnostic challenges. 

In this Discussion, you review and critique the techniques and methods of a mental health professional as the practitioner completes a comprehensive, integrated psychiatric assessment of an adolescent. You also identify rating scales and treatment options that are specifically appropriate for children/adolescents. 

To Prepare

· Review the Learning Resources and consider the insights they provide on comprehensive, integrated psychiatric assessment. Watch the Mental Status Examination B-6 and Simulation Scenario-Adolescent Risk Assessment videos.

· Watch the YMH Boston Vignette 5 video and take notes; you will use this video as the basis for your Discussion post.


Based on the YMH Boston Vignette 5 video, post answers to the following questions:

· What did the practitioner do well? In what areas can the practitioner improve?

· At this point in the clinical interview, do you have any compelling concerns? If so, what are they?

· What would be your next question, and why?

Then, address the following. Your answers to these prompts do not have to be tailored to the patient in the YMH Boston video.

· Explain why a thorough psychiatric assessment of a child/adolescent is important.

· Describe two different symptom rating scales that would be appropriate to use during the psychiatric assessment of a child/adolescent.

· Describe two psychiatric treatment options for children and adolescents that may not be used when treating adults.

· Explain the role parents/guardians play in assessment.

Support your response with at least three peer-reviewed, evidence-based sources and explain why each of your supporting sources is considered scholarly. Attach the PDFs of your sources.

Required Media

To Prepare

· Watch the YMH Boston Vignette 5 video and take notes; you will use this video as the basis for your Discussion post.

YMH Boston. (2013, May 22). Vignette 5 – Assessing for depression in a mental health appointment [Video]. YouTube.

To Prepare

· Review the Learning Resources and consider the insights they provide on comprehensive, integrated psychiatric assessment. Watch the Mental Status Examination B-6 and Simulation Scenario-Adolescent Risk Assessment videos.

Transcript of Video





00:00:15SymptomMedia Mental Status Exam B-6 

00:00:30OFF CAMERA What is your full name? 

00:00:30DR. MASON Dr. Franklin Mason. 

00:00:35OFF CAMERA What is the name of this building you’re in right now? 

00:00:40DR. MASON Fairview Hospital. 

00:00:40OFF CAMERA What is the date? 

00:00:40DR. MASON March 21st. 

00:00:45OFF CAMERA Why are we here and what are we doing? 

00:00:50DR. MASON We’re here because they think I’m depressed, basically. (hmh) 

00:00:55OFF CAMERA This is a concentration exercise. I’m going to ask you to subtract seven from 100 and then seven from that answer, and keep going as long as you can. 

00:01:10DR. MASON Okay, so, 93, 85, 67, 60, 52, 45, 38, and… I lost track I think. 

00:01:35OFF CAMERA Okay. It’s all right. Can you subtract three from 100 and then three from that answer and keep going? 

00:01:45DR. MASON 97, 94, 91, 88. 

00:01:55OFF CAMERA That’s good, thank you. Can you spell “world” forward? 

00:02:05DR. MASON W-O-R-L-D. 

00:02:05OFF CAMERA Now, can you spell “world” backwards? 

00:02:10DR. MASON D-L-O. Oh, actually I messed that up, didn’t I? 

00:02:20OFF CAMERA That’s alright, you can try again if you want. 

00:02:20DR. MASON World, D-L-O-R-D-W? or W-D? 

00:02:30OFF CAMERA That’s alright. 

00:02:30DR. MASON (laughing) 

00:02:30OFF CAMERA Can you repeat and reverse these three digits: seven, two, five? 

00:02:40DR. MASON Seven, two, five; five, two, seven. 

00:02:50OFF CAMERA Can you repeat and reverse these four digits: eight, four, three, six? 

00:03:00DR. MASON Eight, four, three, six; six, eight, three, four. 

00:03:10OFF CAMERA Can you repeat and reverse these six digits: eight, four, five, two, nine, one? 

00:03:25DR. MASON Eight, four, five, nine, two, one; one, two, eight, four, nine, five, four, one. 

00:03:40OFF CAMERA Alright. I’m going to ask you to remember three things. 

00:03:50DR. MASON Okay. 

00:03:50OFF CAMERA You’re going to repeat them now, and later on, I will ask you again if you can recall these three things. 

00:03:55DR. MASON Okay. 

00:03:55OFF CAMERA The three things are: apple, blue, and 408 Park Avenue. So, if you can repeat them now? 

00:04:10DR. MASON Apple, blue, 408 Park Avenue. 

00:04:10OFF CAMERA (mmhmm) And if you can recall them for later. 

00:04:15DR. MASON Okay. 

00:04:20OFF CAMERA What are some things you did in the past several days? 

00:04:25DR. MASON I’ve just been working, basically, trying to rest when I can at the hospital. 

00:04:40OFF CAMERA What are some things you did in the past few months? 

00:04:45DR. MASON Drinking (hmh), working…That’s really all that I do now. 

00:04:55OFF CAMERA Who is the current President of the United States? 

00:05:05DR. MASON Barack Obama. 

00:05:05OFF CAMERA What are some recent news events? 

00:05:10DR. MASON Well, we’ve had a plane go down mysteriously. We’ve had some issues in North Korea, and, I don’t know, you know. I don’t really keep up with the outside world. 

00:05:40OFF CAMERA Can you name some recent past United States Presidents? 

00:05:45DR. MASON Dwight D. Eisenhower, Bush, Regan, Clinton, Jefferson… 

00:06:05OFF CAMERA That’s good, that’s good. Can you name some famous historical events? 

00:06:10DR. MASON Yeah, we have World War I and II… We have Vietnam, just different stuff like that. 

00:06:25OFF CAMERA Mmhmm. What is the capital of the United States? 

00:06:35DR. MASON The capital of the United States is Washington. 

00:06:40OFF CAMERA What are the bodies of water bordering the United States? 

00:06:50DR. MASON Pacific and Atlantic Ocean. 

00:06:50OFF CAMERA What states border this current state that you’re in right now; this state’s border? 

00:07:00DR. MASON Oregon, Nevada… and… that’s all I know, I think. 

00:07:20OFF CAMERA What causes rust? 

00:07:20DR. MASON Rust? 

00:07:20OFF CAMERA Mmhmm. 

00:07:25DR. MASON I’d say time… time. Time equals rust basically. If you let something linger or hang out too long. 

00:07:40OFF CAMERA What is the purpose of lungs? 

00:07:45DR. MASON The purpose of lungs is to breathe life inside of you. 

00:07:50OFF CAMERA We’re going to make some comparisons. How are these objects similar? Orange and apple. 

00:08:00DR. MASON They’re both fruits. 

00:08:05OFF CAMERA Desk and chair. 

00:08:10DR. MASON They both are things you work on. 

00:08:10OFF CAMERA Plane and truck. 

00:08:15DR. MASON They both are things you ride in. 

00:08:20OFF CAMERA Newspaper and radio. 

00:08:20DR. MASON They’re both things that display information. 

00:08:30OFF CAMERA What do these old sayings mean to you in your own words? “The grass is greener on the other side of the fence.” 

00:08:45DR. MASON That there’s always something better down the line if you’re patient. 

00:08:50OFF CAMERA “Don’t cry over spilled milk.” 

00:09:00DR. MASON Basically, not whining or pining over what has happened already, just moving forward. 

00:09:10OFF CAMERA “A rolling stone gathers no moss.” 

00:09:15DR. MASON I haven’t even heard that one before…hmmm. 


00:09:20OFF CAMERA How about, “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t “throw rocks”? 

00:09:30DR. MASON I guess people who talk about somebody else, you look themselves first before they criticize. 

00:09:40OFF CAMERA What is your mood today? 

00:09:45DR. MASON It’s normal, I feel okay. 

00:09:50OFF CAMERA What is your mood usually over the past weeks or months? 

00:09:55DR. MASON Pretty much the same, just not too up or not too down. 

00:10:10OFF CAMERA Earlier, I asked you if you could recall three things. Can you remember what those three things were? 

00:10:20DR. MASON Apple, blue, and Park Avenue. 

00:10:20OFF CAMERA Now I’m going to ask you a few questions on judgement. Hypothetically, what would you do if you smelled smoke in a movie theater? 

00:10:35DR. MASON I would report it… to the manager or whoever I see, I would report it. 

00:10:45OFF CAMERA What would you do if you found an addressed, stamped envelope? 

00:10:50DR. MASON Nothing, I would just leave it where it is. I don’t like to touch other people’s stuff. 

00:11:00OFF CAMERA What would you do if you were lost in the woods? 

00:11:05DR. MASON Try to find my way out. 

00:11:10OFF CAMERA What would you do if you found a gun? 

00:11:15DR. MASON I might keep it. 

00:11:20OFF CAMERA Why are you here? 

00:11:25DR. MASON Cuz’ they think I’m depressed. 

00:11:25OFF CAMERA What are three wishes you would make if they would come true? 


00:11:40DR. MASON Maybe… if I can be back with my wife. Maybe if I could take away the urge to drink so much. And, just… all the bad memories, I guess; take those away. 


© 2019 Indian Journal of Psychiatry | Published by Wolters Kluwer ‑ MedknowS158

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Quick Response Code



Operational terms used in the guidelines
The term “child”/“children” will appear in most references
to children and adolescents. At some places, distinguishing
age groups becomes relevant. The term “child” will be
used for all children between 0 and 12 years of age and
the term “adolescent” for those between 13 and 18 years
of age. To further delineate the early developmental
period, where needed, the term “infant” will be used for
children 0–12 months of age and “toddler” for children
between 12 and 36 months of age. Given that children
have to be evaluated and managed in the context of their
caregiving environment, parents and the extended family
are important informants and an integral part of the
treatment plan. The term “parents” will be used for the
biological or adoptive parents of the child, and the term
“family” will be used for all other individuals who live in the
same household (siblings, grandparents, other members
in a joint family, etc.). For any other individual involved in
primary caretaking responsibilities of the child, the term
“caregiver(s)” will be used.


The central goal of a clinical assessment is to come to a
case formulation that would guide management decisions.[1]
Delineating signs and symptoms through detailed clinical
history and examination help ascertain key areas of concern
and presence (or absence) of a mental health disorder. To



Assessing children and adolescents is challenging. Generally,
the child/adolescent in question would not have initiated
the consultation or may not be in agreement with the need
for a consultation. The consultation may or may not even
be sought for the most impairing problem at hand. While
children may be able to report the nature of symptoms, they
may not be very good at reporting the timing and duration
of their problems. They may not report problems if they are
embarrassing or show them in a bad light. Clinical assessments
with children and adolescents are, therefore, elaborate
and require the clinician to be astute and conscientious in
obtaining information from multiple sources and settings,
i.e., the child, parents, teachers, and other caregivers. There
are bound to be discrepancies in the report; nevertheless,
multi-source information is a requirement during diagnosis
and management. Assessment and treatment are generally
multidisciplinary. Information may also be gathered in a
staged manner to not overwhelm the child and family.
Gathered information has to be shared across professionals
involved in the care of the child and family.

These guidelines cover general principles in the assessment
of children and adolescents who present to a clinic (Box 1).
These principles are not restricted to particular psychiatric
presentations or contexts of evaluation. Assessments
for forensic and legal purposes are beyond the scope of
these guidelines. These guidelines must be used with
an understanding and grasp of child development and
childhood mental health disorders.


Clinical Practice Guidelines for Assessment of Children and Adolescents
Shoba Srinath, Preeti Jacob, Eesha Sharma, Anita Gautam1
Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bengaluru,
Karnataka, 1Gautam Hospital and Research Centre, Gautam Institute of Behavioral Sciences and Alternative Medicine,
Jaipur, Rajasthan, India

Address for correspondence: Dr. Eesha Sharma,
Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry,
National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences,
Bengaluru, Karnataka, India.
E-mail: eesha.

How to cite this article: Srinath S, Jacob P, Sharma E,
Gautam A. Clinical practice guidelines for assessment of
children and adolescents. Indian J Psychiatry 2019;61:158‑75.

This is an open access journal, and articles are distributed under the terms of
the Creative Commons Attribution‑NonCommercial‑ShareAlike 4.0 License,
which allows others to remix, tweak, and build upon the work non‑commercially,
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the identical terms.

For reprints contact:

Box 1: Aim of clinical practice guidelines on assessment
of children and adolescents

Collate and structure information from multiple sources
Formulate understanding about presenting problems in their context
Communication of clinical problem to others in the multidisciplinary team

Srinath, et al.: Assessment of children and adolescents

Indian Journal of Psychiatry, Volume 61 (Supplement 2), January 2019 S159

adequately comprehend the origins, maintenance, and
factors affecting remission from the disorder, it is essential to
place the child within a psychosocial background, relate the
presentation to his/her unique context, and to gather details
about what has happened to the illness so far, including what
has been the treatment and response history. On the face
of it, these components appear factual. However, it is often
challenging to get consistent, continuous, corroborative
information from the child and family. A therapeutic alliance
plays a vital role. If the child and the family perceive a mutually
beneficial relationship, the elucidation of facts becomes more
meaningful and useful leading to shared intervention goals.
The case formulation is, therefore, a culmination of these
individual components, helps adopt a holistic view of the
child’s problems, and helps in treatment planning, including
assigning roles and responsibilities to the multidisciplinary
team [Figure 1]. A clinical assessment also aids the child and
family in developing a clearer understanding of their own
difficulties and gives them an opportunity to reflect on the
information they share.

Emphasis on a therapeutic alliance is limited in the context
of forensic/legal evaluations. In this scenario, the person
conducting the clinical assessment may not be part of the
treating team. It is important, therefore, to check if the child/
family is aware of and understands the reasons for referral,
i.e., has the child been referred for a forensic evaluation or
for treatment? The clinician should clarify to them the need
for the evaluation, and the further course postevaluation,
including confidentiality of the information, obtained.

Establishing therapeutic alliance with the child/family
Health professionals working with children know that
interacting with children is no child’s play! As adults we often
find ourselves at a loss of ideas when interacting with children;
as health professionals we also tend to get preoccupied with
“saying the right thing,” and worrying about whether the
child will “abide” by given advice. Getting caught up in these
anxieties impedes assessment and therapeutic work with
children. It is easier to empathize with adults because we
have a more accessible frame of reference in ourselves. Adults
are not children, but they have been children. We need to on
several occasions recall our own childhood experiences, and
from the lives of our siblings and peers, to draw parallels, to
truly understand the predicament a given child may be in.

Clinicians sometimes neglect establishing a rapport in
their work with children and practice purely paternalistic
medicine. There is a need to respect the child’s autonomy
as well as look out for their best interests. Shared
decision-making, with selective paternalism where needed,
is the best form of practice, especially with children and
families.[2] While establishing rapport, a common error
is the assumption that communicating with parents is
enough, and that interventions in children occur through
parents. This is partially true, given that parent training and

parent-child work form major components of intervention
in childhood disorders. However, clinicians’ and the
therapists’ relationship with the child independently affect
intervention outcomes. Even though a child may not agree
with the need for a consultation, we must know that children
are aware of the processes and are trying to make sense of
discussions around them that are about them! Therefore,
direct communication with the child, acknowledging the
child’s understanding of the situation, and building a shared
understanding, even if simplistic, is fruitful in the long-run.

The purpose of developing a rapport with a child must be
clear in the clinician’s mind. Immediate compliance with the
clinician’s advice is not the goal. Good rapport has a long-term
agenda of providing the child with a safe, confidential,
nonjudgmental place to “unburden” and discuss possible
solutions to their difficulties. If a child is in trouble, he/she
must be able to share it with the clinician honestly, rather than
cover it up, which might, in turn, expose the child to additional
trouble. Compliance, therefore, becomes a byproduct of
the therapeutic alliance with the child. In addition, the
child must also know what are the limits to confidentiality
in a therapeutic relationship. Harm to self, harm to others,
experiences of trauma and abuse, are issues that have to
be taken out of clinician-child confidentiality agreement for
systematic intervention. This must be communicated to the
child and be reiterated over the course of consultations.

A child-friendly space for assessment of children and adolescents
The clinical setting for the assessment of children and
adolescents should engage the child for the requisite
duration of time. The waiting period and meeting a
doctor can intimidate children, making them irritable,
and uncooperative during the assessment. Most child
clinics pay special attention to the appearance of the
place, and the availability of toys, books, and play spaces.
Simple things such as walls painted in bright colors, with
cartoon characters, and fables keep the children engaged

Figure 1: Objectives of clinical assessment in child and
adolescent psychiatry

Srinath, et al.: Assessment of children and adolescents

Indian Journal of Psychiatry, Volume 61 (Supplement 2), January 2019S160

and wanting to come back to the place, should repeat
consultations be required. Having a few large blackboards
with colored chalks are another engagement tool. Toys, play
objects, papers, and color pens should be available in the
consultation room also. Play and drawing activities can help
break the ice with children and can be used as standalone
assessment tools, especially with preschool children who
may not have the verbal repertoire to narrate distressing
experiences. All staff members in child clinics need to be
attuned to the presence and activities of children. They
should make active attempts at keeping children engaged.

Challenges in establishing rapport
The silent child
A major challenge in establishing rapport is when a child does
not talk during the consultation. There can be several reasons
behind this lack of verbal engagement [Figure 2]. The clinician
must be open to examining the various possibilities and
address them accordingly. This, of course, will take some extra
consultation time and the clinician must be prepared for the
same. The idea of understanding the underlying reasons is not
essentially to get the child to talk, rather it is to communicate
to the child that the clinician is really keen on knowing what
the child wants to say and that the clinician appreciates the
child’s reasons/difficulties that are a barrier to talking now.

A common reason for a child’s silence is anxiety. Children who
are temperamentally slow to warm up may gradually open
up during follow-up visits. The clinician could get an idea
about this from the temperamental history of the child. The
clinician should avoid intimidating the child by compelling
him/her to talk. The child should be allowed to ease into
the consultation process at his/her own pace. Talking about
the child’s favorite games, school, and other neutral topics
would help put the child at ease before encroaching on
the clinical context. Anxiety could also arise from more
proximate factors – the presence of a mood/anxiety disorder,
history of trauma/abuse, authoritarian parenting where the
presence of parents/caregivers may cause the child to be
more anxious. In this situation, and if the child assents, the
clinician could speak to the child alone. Often, children are
angry about being brought in for consultation. Asking the
parents what the child understands about the consultation
is one way of getting an idea about this.

Parents may have brought the child on some other pretext
(e.g., consultation for parents, concerns about academics
even though the real reason may be disruptive behavior),
or may have just coerced the child into coming for the
consultation. While one may question the rationale
and judgment of parents in doing so, the clinician could
understand it as helplessness arising out of aggressive
behavior of the child or parenting skills deficits. Sometimes
parents may reach out to the clinician before they bring the
child. These situations usually arise with older children and
adolescents. It is advisable to have a separate interaction

with the child, involving a process of introducing oneself,
giving the child time to respond, and gradually moving
toward establishing the context of the interaction.
Acknowledging the child’s emotion and communicating an
interest in understanding the child’s perspective is crucial
in reassuring the child that they will be heard and their
concerns addressed without the use of any coercion or
deception. It is crucial that the context of the consultation
is established from the beginning. The child and the family
could be addressed together, and some common concerns
mentioned as a context for continuing consultations and
work with the family. When children do not acknowledge
the issues at all, using phrases such as “I can see that you
and your parents have been unhappy…. I would like to
understand this better and help….” may be useful rather than
make the youngster the sole reason for the consultation.

Children with developmental delays or specific deficits
in speech and social skills may find it difficult to express
themselves. Unlike the previous two scenarios, the focus
here shifts from handling the child’s emotions to interacting
with the child at his/her developmental level. Play methods
are used in the assessment of toddlers and preschoolers.
Young children may not have the intellectual, verbal, and
social capacity to express themselves coherently. Their
experiences and memories are often engraved in behavior
that can be observed during play (e.g., a child who has
witnessed/experienced a traumatic event may enact the
same during play). In very young children, physiological
needs – sleep, hunger, any form of physical discomfort may
cause distress and make the child uncooperative during the
assessment. Parents are usually able to identify these needs
and the clinician should accommodate requests to address
them. In fact, assessment of very young children such as
infants and young toddlers must be scheduled at a time that
they are awake, alert, and cooperative.

The presence of depressive/anxiety disorders could also
underlie a child’s silence. Selective mutism is a specific case in

Figure 2: Understanding a child’s silence during assessment

Srinath, et al.: Assessment of children and adolescents

Indian Journal of Psychiatry, Volume 61 (Supplement 2), January 2019 S161

point. Children with this disorder have a history of not talking
in unfamiliar social situations. The child can be engaged
through nonverbal means, such as writing, drawing, and
gestures. Comorbid social anxiety is common. With repeated
interactions and reassurances the child may gradually open
up. Systematic interventions for anxiety disorders must be
pursued for lasting changes in interaction. Psychotic and
obsessive-compulsive disorders can be another area where
the “fearful” content of a child’s experiences inhibit him/her
from sharing information with the clinician. It is important
to persist with efforts at interacting with the child. Mutism
with posturing may be signs of catatonia. In such instances,
standard assessment formats such as Kirby’s method[3] for
examination of uncooperative patients must be followed.

The “difficult” child
Older children and adolescents are often not keen on
the consultation, especially where there are issues like
disruptive behavior and substance abuse. The adolescent
may be weary of being reprimanded and pulled up for his/her
behavior or may be embarrassed to have his parents discuss
his behavior with others. Sometimes, adolescents may not
recognize the extent to which their behavior is problematic
because their peers engage in similar behavior, for example,
playing games on the mobile. Violent behavior, both toward
caregivers or objects in the environment, could arise from
emotional distress. The adolescent may justify aggression
as “the only way” to deal with a particular situation.

It is paramount that every effort be made to gain the
confidence of the child/adolescent. The efficacy of the
intervention is influenced by the clinician’s ability to establish a
common ground with the child/adolescent. Older children and
adolescents are in the phase of development where they are
establishing self and group identities. They may be extremely
sensitive to the disapproval of peers, interests or behaviors.
In an effort to “protect” these, they refuse to talk about these
issues. It is prudent to begin such interviews on a neutral
ground. General enquiries about how the child/adolescent
has been, how the school has been going, what their interests
are, celebrities they admire/follow, etc., may help the clinician
ease into establishing a rapport. It would be useful for the
clinician to be familiar with the latest trends in TV, cinema,
music, sports, games! This could facilitate efforts to engage the
young person. It is important to not overly try to identify with
the adolescent as that could appear artificial; rather a genuine
interest, asking the child/adolescent to help the clinician
understand their interests, may be more appealing.

It is important to acknowledge that the child/adolescent may
not want to talk about the “problem.” The clinician must convey
a keen interest in wanting to know the child/adolescent’s
perspective, and that he/she would be willing to do so whenever
the child/adolescent is ready. While children/adolescents are
not keen on sharing information, parents might come with
a very different agenda. They may expect the clinician to

figure out the problem by doing some “tests,” and “counsel”
the child. Giving the parents a biopsychosocial perspective of
the problem may go a long way in working with them. The
cognitive, social, and emotional developmental changes in
adolescence, and the longitudinal and multifactorial nature of
the problem are key aspects to be discussed with the parents
so that they appreciate that there are no “quick fixes” and
that “advice from the clinician” may not be effective unless the
underlying issues are addressed. The clinician must validate
the parents’ concern and emphasize that a holistic approach
is necessary to improve outcomes.

Children are often brought for consultation as they enter
important academic levels (class 10/SSLC in India), as
parents feel that the child’s behavior is affecting or might
interfere with board exam results. It may also be that the
school referred the child on noticing sub-average academic
performance, while the parents had not identified any concern
themselves. Clinical histories often reveal that long-standing
problems have been accommodated so far rather than
addressing them. Clinicians need to be cautious here. Giving
hope about the problem’s resolution must not come at
the cost of negating the reality. One could empathize with
parents about their concerns and reassure them of support.
Yet, the developmental and longitudinal perspective must
be conveyed. We know from clinical data that issues such
as developmental disorders, temperamental difficulties, and
severe disruptive behavior disorders are chronic problems
with heterotypic continuities into adulthood.[4] We need to
educate parents and keep this framework in mind.

Gathering information from both parents and child
It is imperative to get a narrative account of the clinical
history from both parents and child. The parents account
is about what they “see” the child do, i.e., observations
of the child’s behavior. However, behaviors do not exist in
isolation. Additional layers of emotion thought, experience
and context help to truly understand the origins and
implications of a child’s behavior [Figure 3]. Firestone[5]
and Wieland[6] have spoken about the “inner voice,” a
product of contexts and experiences, that determines
emotional and behavioral responses. This model is used
by the community service project[7] at NIMHANS while

Figure 3: Understanding a child’s behavior

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working with personnel from various childcare systems in
the community. This model can also be used in a clinical
scenario to understand not only observed behavior
but also the child’s underlying thoughts and emotions.
Parents are more likely to report externalizing symptoms
and children and adolescents are more likely to report
internalizing symptoms.

Interviewing the child and parent together or separately
is a clinical judgment call. Situations where one absolutely
must talk separately to the child include – older children
or adolescents, history suggestive of parent-child discord,
peer relationship issues, history of trauma/abuse, and
children staying in child care institutions. A practical way
of conducting these interviews would be to speak to
the parents of young children separately before or after
seeing the child together with the parents to observe the
child and observe the interactions between the parents
and the child. In the case of adolescents, they must be
included in the initial interviews and thereafter must be
spoken to separately first before conducting the parent
interview. Parents and children come from their own
personal histories. Their understanding and expression
of the “problem” is colored by their own developmental,
familial, and other salient experiences. It should, therefore,
not surprise the clinician when stories do not match, or
concerns vary widely between the parents and the child.
Figure 4 illustrates salient influential factors for the parents
and the child.

Background and context of presentation
Often, the first health-care contact for children and
adolescents with behavioral concerns is not a mental
health professional. Pediatricians or neurologists may be
consulted first. Sometimes, difficulties that the child is
experiencing behaviorally, emotionally or with respect
to academics may be noticed by school teachers. The
referral context and process shed light on the nature of
problems, functional impact, and knowledge, attitude,
and practices of the family. This has implications on future
plan of management. Key questions that must be posed
to each family coming in for a consultation to understand

the referral context are presented in Box 2. When children
and parents come in for a consultation that has not been
initiated by them, the clinician must look into all available
documentation and trace the referral pathway. This
establishes a common context for consultation and helps
prioritize nature and schedule of systematic assessment
and intervention.

Clinical history and examination
The goals of clinical history and examination are to evaluate
and ascertain the following:
a. Developmental trajectories and attainments
b. Presenting behavioral and emotional problems
c. Current functioning in various settings
d. Strengths/assets of the child/adolescent and the family
e. The highest level of functioning before the onset of the

current concerns.

Know the child and the family – the sociodemographics
Clinicians are busy people. However, spending the first
few minutes in getting to know the family is a great tool in
developing rapport and adds to the understanding about
the context of consultation. In India, for instance, there is a
wide variation in parenting and social norms. Educational,
occupational, residential and religious backgrounds can
give the clinician a frame of reference for “where the family
is coming from” and the context of the parent-child conflict.
A clinician’s consultation chamber can be an intimidating
experience for the child and family. Basic information
gathering gives them some time to gather their thoughts
and adjust to the consultation situation before discussing
the “problem.”

Ongoing concerns and Presenting complaints
Parents and children may be unclear about the extent or nature
of the problem. For instance, in children with developmental
delays, parents may only focus on the fact that the child
does not speak, or school refusal may be the presenting
concern in a child who has, in fact, had a long-standing
mood or disruptive behavior disorder. Development so
intricately intertwines with the child’s experiences and the
parent’s repeated attempts at handling difficulties that the
clinical picture becomes complex and layered. The clinician
must give the parents sufficient time to describe all that
they have to say and identify the behavioral concerns. The

Figure 4: Factors influencing parent and child report

Box 2: Questions to understand the “referral”
“Who has referred the child?”
“Why did they refer the child?”
“Why did they refer the child NOW?”
“Is there a referral letter? What is the key concern expressed in the letter?”
“Is there any administrative concern?”
“Do the parents/child understand the context/reasons for the referral?”
“Are there any reports- school, social agencies, previous evaluation/
“Are there any other medical records available?”

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clinician should, as a rule, identify both ongoing concerns
and presenting complaints. Ongoing concerns include all the
developmental, psychological, emotional, and behavioral
concerns over time while presenting complaints are what
precipitated the current consultation. For example, a
child with long-standing attention-deficit hyperactivity
disorder (ADHD) may have always had complaints from
school about incomplete work, restlessness in class, and
impulsive anger outbursts; however, the current consultation
was precipitated by the school wanting to know if the child
is academically capable of writing board examinations.
While the real solution lies in addressing the ADHD through
pharmacological/behavioral interventions, the urgent issue
is communication with the school about the nature of the
child’s problems and the manner of addressal. Some key
questions that could help elucidate ongoing concerns and
presenting complaints are depicted in Box 3.

Clinical history of the child’s problems
Identifying symptom dimensions
It is ideal if the parents can narrate the concerns they have
had about the child from the “start” in a chronological
manner, covering details about when they sought what
consultation and how it impacted the child, both gains
and any adverse reactions. This ideal scenario does not
exist in child and adolescent psychiatry. Unlike in adults,
the premorbid self is an evolving entity in children and
adolescents, and environmental contexts impact a child’s
behavior significantly. Parents are, therefore, at a loss for
how to describe the onset, and course of concerns. Initially,
the parents must be allowed to talk about the concerns
in whichever manner they want to, starting at whatever
point in the child’s life they want to. This brings to light
the most prominent concerns and the most salient accounts
of the complaints. During the parents’ narrative, however,
the clinician must note the behavioral symptom profiles
that the parent is talking about. Some examples of typical
complaints arising from different symptom domains are
depicted in Table 1. Complaints pointing towards specific
symptom dimensions must thereafter lead into an enquiry
about differential diagnoses under that domain. For
instance, a child presenting with developmental concerns
must be evaluated for intellectual disability, autism spectrum

disorders, specific speech, and language developmental
disorders and ADHD.

Diagnostic overshadowing and masking
The clinician must bear in mind two important
phenomena – diagnostic overshadowing and diagnostic
masking. Sometimes, psychiatric disorders may be missed in
children with developmental disorders, because all behavioral
symptoms may be considered a part of the developmental
disorder, thereby overshadowing primary treatable
psychiatric conditions. The presence of developmental
disorders can modify or mask the manifestations of a primary
psychiatric disorder, by the presence of cognitive, language
or speech deficits, especially when the developmental
disability is severe, for example, mood disorders in children
with developmental disorders may present with excessive
laughing or just increase in stereotypic behaviors.

Multiple symptoms
Children may present with more than one symptom. It
is important to decipher the order of development of
symptoms, for example, a child who presents currently
with “fainting spells,” may have had an onset of staying
withdrawn, then irritability, then refusing to go to school,
and then fainting spells started around examination time.
This sequential order of the complaints gives better insight
into underlying psychopathological states and helps in
management. The clinician must also enquire about the
“peak of illness/disability” in the ongoing concerns, and the
circumstances around then.

Discrete behaviors
For any discrete behaviors, such as dissociative phenomenon
or aggression, it is important to get details about – onset,
course, frequency, when does the behaviors occur, how
long does the behavior last, precipitating and ameliorating
factors. These details add to the conceptualization/
significance of the discrete behavior; they may also be
insightful for parents and help in planning intervention.

Impact of environmental factors
In elucidating details about behavioral problems and how
they have developed over time, the parents should be asked
their understanding about the child’s difficulties. One may ask,
“What do you feel has led to the child’s behavioral problems?
OR Why do you think these behavioral changes have occurred in
the child?” Changes in school, peer group, family environment,
parent going away for work, sibling moving out of the house,
may be significant factors that the parent can link the onset of
the child’s problems to. Processing and accepting change can
be a complex task for children. Unpredictable interruptions in
the formation of a coherent working model of the world can
result in confusion, insecurity, and further unpredictability. This
is also why bereavement and grief are the most challenging
experiences for children. Evolving concepts of life and death
interact with a personal loss; behavioral manifestations range

Box 3: Questions to elucidate ongoing concerns and
presenting complaints

Ongoing concerns
“Have you (parent) had any concerns about the child’s behavior, or
psychological condition?”
“Could you (parent) please tell me what kinds of difficulties have you
noticed in the child’s behavior?”
“Have you been concerned about any developmental issues in your child?”

Presenting complaints
“What made you seek help for your child now?”
“Are there any specific reasons that have made you (parent) seek help

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from complete indifference to extreme agitation and distress.
Children with developmental disorders are especially sensitive
to any changes in their environment; they may present with
general distress, sleep and food irregularities, irritability,
aggression, and even developmental regression. The key is
to understand the child’s reactions to change and help them
make sense of the situation keeping in mind the developmental
perspective. In developmental disorders, understimulation
can be quite prominent. The parents/caregivers may not
understand the transactional nature of child development. The
child’s daily activities may largely be comprised of solitary play
with general overseeing by the caregiver/parent, with little
one-to-one engagement and stimulation. This is a sub-optimal
environment for child development and would become the
prime focus of intervention in children/adolescents with
developmental disorders.

Functional consequences of symptoms
Concerns and symptoms picked up by parents must also
be assessed for their impact on functional domains in the
child’s life – at home, at school, with peers, etc. A useful tool
in understanding functioning is to ask the parents and child
to describe a “typical day” – “What all activities, and at what
times of the day, the child does from waking up to going
to bed?”, “Who accompanies/supervises the child in which
activities?”. Changes in the daily schedule after the onset of
the current concerns should be enquired.

Additional information
When children have developmental disabilities/severe
mental illnesses, the clinician could also check with the

family if they have sought any disability benefits. In addition
to being an important part of the management plan, this
enquiry serves to enlighten parents on available support
systems for disability in the country.

A note on “mobile use” and “gaming” – Epiphenomena as
presenting complaints?
In the recent past, children brought for excessive use of
mobile phones, and excessive time spent on internet/
online games/video games is increasing. The common
perception among parents is that the child has become
“addicted” to the mobile phone or gaming. Since parents
are more commonly able to report an approximate “onset,”
course and duration of, say, the excessive mobile use, the
underlying pathology may be missed. Children/adolescents
presenting with these concerns must be evaluated for the
whole range of child mental health issues. Learning issues,
developmental deficits, and mood/anxiety states may all
lead to this behavioral phenotype either as an escape from
“difficulties” or as a manifestation of “novelty seeking.” A
primary diagnosis of behavioral addiction rarely holds once
other mental health conditions have been evaluated for.

Children in special circumstances
Children and adolescents are being increasingly referred
for evaluation to psychiatrists and psychologists, from
state-run institutions and agencies, and nongovernmental
agencies. These children may be in difficult circumstances
such as in conflict with the law or in need of care and
protection, many having undergone traumatic experiences
such as abuse and/or neglect. While comprehensive

Table 1: Symptom dimensions in child psychiatry
Developmental disorders Mood/Anxiety symptoms Disruptive behavior disorders Learning disabilities


•Cannot sit/walk even in the 2nd
year of life

•Very cranky, irritable when
sent to school

•Does not obey commands •Cannot identify alphabets

•Cannot speak like children his age •Becomes quiet, tries to hide
in front of outsiders

•Answers back to elders •Confuses alphabets

•Does not make eye contact •Refusal to eat or go to sleep •Teases, troubles other children •Avoids writing
•Does not respond to name call •Is demanding
•Does not play with children his age •Frequently starts fights and is

•Keeps day‑dreaming •Frequent complaints from school

about classroom behavior
•Does not complete any activity he
•Is usually restless and fidgety
•Does not sit in the seat in class,
wants to repeatedly go out to the
toilet or elsewhere


•Cannot make friends •Is very shy •Is very argumentative •Makes a lot of ‘silly mistakes’
•Lags behind in studies •Feels scared to talk to

teachers, outsiders
•Lies, steals •Spelling mistakes

•Gets bullied by other children •Does not answer in class •Troubles, bullies other children in

•Learns everything orally but
cannot write

•Poor academic performance •Irritability •Hurts animals
•Self‑harm behaviors •Is demanding and very often becomes

aggressive when demands are not met
•Stays aloof •Drug use

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forensic evaluation procedures are beyond the scope of
this chapter, we highlight some issues below.
• It is important to ascertain the reason for referral and ask

for a written referral as far as possible. The case-worker’s
or probation officer’s notes are important; both from a
case formulation and management perspective. If this
has not been made available, it must be asked for from
the concerned agency

• Documentation is vital. Notes must be pristinely
maintained by all parties involved in the care of the child

• The clinician must liaise with all the other people and
agencies involved in the care of the child and must
integrate obtained information to the extent possible

• Even if children are referred by the state, every effort
must be made to contact the parents of the child, both
to obtain history as well as to communicate the plan of
management and offer therapeutic help, if required

• The purpose of the assessment must be expressly
discussed with the child/adolescent, especially with
respect to confidentiality and its limits

• As far as possible, multiple interviews and opportunities
to observe and interact with the child are required
before any report is made available

• Psychosocial adversities that they may have experienced
or are currently experiencing such as abuse and/or neglect
must be specifically enquired for in all children and
adolescents. If the child comes from an institution, then
the care provided at the institution must also be an area of
enquiry including the risk of exploitation and abuse

• The plan of management including follow‑up must be
documented and conveyed to the child and the caregivers.

Use of structured assessment tools in child and adolescent
Clinical judgment plays a pivotal role in the diagnosis
and management of children and adolescents. Careful
clinical interviews of multiple informants are usually the
best method to aid clinical decision making. Structured
assessment instruments and observation methods can
sometimes contribute to the process of this clinical
decision-making. Two key uses of structured instruments
are for (a) diagnostic interviewing, and (b) gathering
descriptive information about various aspects of emotional,
behavioral and social problems. The latter’s utility
essentially means the use of rating scales for quantifying
symptom severity. Structured tools are also standard
practice in the area of research where inter-rater reliability
is important. Structured instruments can be categorized
based on the domain of symptoms/assessment, and on the
administration characteristics of the tool. This has been
illustrated in Table 2. The reader will note that the majority
of tools are structured, in that the behaviors or items to
be assessed are specified and are to be rated in a specific
manner. The interviewer must be sufficiently familiar with
the tool to correlate the behavior described/observed via
history or clinical observation to the items described in

the tool. The use of screening tools, structured diagnostic
interviews or scales for particular disorders must be used
based on the purpose of the assessment. For instance,
if a child is diagnosed to have obsessive-compulsive
disorder (OCD), the Children’s Yale-Brown Obsessive
Compulsive Scale may be used to assess the severity
of the condition or response to treatment, etc. In the
same child, an anxiety or depression screening tool may
be used to ascertain anxiety and depression, apart from
the clinical interview, to rule out the above-mentioned
conditions as they are highly comorbid with OCD and not
easily discernible in this population, unless enquired into
specifically. Thus, the use of these measures must be done
with careful thought regarding the need that the particular
measure is going to serve. No measure is a replacement for
a good history, examination, and sound clinical judgment.
While choosing these instruments, it is also important
to consider the psychometric properties as well as other
practical considerations including the impact of culture.
Another challenge in using these measures is that it may
interfere with the rapport that the clinician is trying to
develop with the child. The timing, need, and explanation
regarding these measures, provided to the child and family,
is vital in getting appropriate and useful information from
them. However, and this cannot be reiterated enough, that
no measure can be a replacement for a comprehensive
clinical evaluation and clinical expertise.

Medical history and physical examination
Child and adolescent psychiatry straddles psychiatry,
pediatric medicine, and neurology. A clinician needs to take
a detailed medical history and conduct appropriate physical
examination, and laboratory investigations where needed,
to support or refute the provisional diagnosis from a
biopsychosocial perspective.[8] For example, a child may be
inattentive in school and may hail from a family with limited
resources; the physical examination must look for signs of
anemia and malnutrition, as contributory factors toward
inattention. In a country like India, for many children/
adolescents contact with a psychiatrist, in the context of
behavioral concerns, maybe their first ever medical contact.
Therefore, getting a good medical history/examination is
vital for the global health of the child. If a child presents
with psychological issues as part of a chronic medical
condition such as juvenile onset diabetes or HIV, then the
psychiatrist must be part of the multidisciplinary team
involved in the care of the child and must be privy to the
medical history, treatment provided, and investigations of
the child. A history of recurrent falls or fractures/injuries,
secondary enuresis or encopresis, must alert the clinician
to the possibility of abuse.

Physical examination
The physical examination must be guided by presenting
complaints, hypotheses and differential diagnosis that the
clinician is considering based on history obtained from

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Table 2: Structured assessment tools in child and adolescent psychiatry
Assessment Name of tool & source Format Rater Remarks

Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children (DISC)
( )


Respondent ICD/DSM diagnosis

Kiddie-Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia (K-SADS)
ksads-dsm-5-screener )

Semi-structured Interviewer ICD/DSM diagnosis

Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview for Children and
Adolescents (MINI-KID)

Semi-structured Interviewer ICD-DSM diagnosis

Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Assessment (CAPA)

Semi-structured Interviewer DSM diagnosis

Preschool Age Psychiatric Assessment (PAPA)
( )

Semi-structured Interviewer DSM diagnosis

Development and Well Being Assessment (DAWBA)

Structured Respondent DSM diagnosis


Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ)

Structured Respondent Behaviour scores

Achenbach System of Empirically Based Assessment (ASEBA)

Structured Respondent/

Behaviour scores & DSM

Behavioural Assessment System for Children (BASC-2)

Structured Respondent Behaviour scores

Pediatric Symptom Checklist (PSC)
chklst )

Structured Respondent Behaviour screening

Child Symptom Inventories – 4 (CSI-4)

Structured Respondent Behaviour screening


Children’s Global Assessment Scale (CGAS)

Semi-structured Interviewer Global functioning

Child and Adolescent Functional Assessment Scale (CAFAS)

Semi-structured Interviewer Multi-domain functioning
and risk assessment

Columbia Impairment Scale (CIS) ( )

Structured Respondent Multi-domain functioning

Brief Impairment Scale (BIS)
Brief-Impairment-Scale-English )

Structured Interviewer Multi-domain functioning

Vineland Adaptive Behaviour Scales – II (VABS-II)

Structured Respondent Multi-domain functioning

Developmental Disability – Children’s Global Assessment Scale (DD-CGAS)

Semi-structured Interviewer Multi-domain functioning


Dyadic Parent Child Interaction Coding System (DPICS)

Structured Interviewer Parent-child interaction

Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule – 2 (ADOS-2)

Structured Interviewer Symptoms of autism
spectrum disorder

Direct Observation Form (DOF)

Unstructured Interviewer Behavioural ratings

Disruptive Behaviour Diagnostic Observation Schedule (DB-DOS)
Disruptive-Behavior-Diagnostic-Observation-Schedule-DB-DOS )

Structured Respondent/

Disruptive behaviour

Coding Interactive Behaviour (CIB)

Semi-structured Interviewer Parent-child interaction,
socio-emotional risk

Box 4: General principles of physical examination in a

Explain reasons for the examination
Explain, to both child and parent, what will be done during the examination
Child and parent should give verbal permission for the examination
The parent/caregiver must be present in the room during the examination

the child and family (Box 4 and 5). Generally, the physical
examination begins with recording vital signs, and height and
weight on a growth chart. Head circumference must also be
recorded on a growth chart. This helps track vital parameters
over time as they are important measures of well-being and
optimal development in children and adolescents. It is crucial

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to measure the height, and weight in children who are on
stimulants or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) at
every follow-up. Calculating the child’s Body Mass Index (BMI)
and measuring waist circumference has also become important
given the extensive use of atypical antipsychotic drugs.

Examination of skin, hair, nails
In child and adolescent psychiatry, apart from the presence of
systemic illnesses and neurocutaneous disorders, the clinician
must also look for signs of intentional self-injury, abuse (scars,
bruising, and petechiae), abrasions, skin picking that may be
suggestive of compulsive behaviors; patterns of hair loss either
on the scalp or other parts of the body may be suggestive of
trichotillomania. The presence of acne must also be noted – it
may be due to adolescence itself or due to the use of Lithium
or may be a sign of polycystic ovarian disease. As acne causes
considerable distress in young people measures must be taken
to help the adolescent with this particular skin ailment. Signs
of neglect and poor self-care must also be noted, such as
unkempt general appearance, lice or other parasitic infections.

Examination of the head, eyes, nose, and throat
This examination must begin with the recording of the
head circumference. Signs of dysmorphic facial features

characteristic of specific genetic disorders such as Fragile
X, Prader-Willi, Angelman, Williams or Turner’s Syndrome
must be noted. Examination of teeth, gums, and mouth
is important to ascertain dental hygiene and signs of
self-induced vomiting. If there are any concerns regarding
vision or hearing, then a referral for a detailed assessment
with an ophthalmologist and/or an audiologist must be done.

Neurological examination
This is of utmost importance in psychiatry and must include
an examination of the cranial nerves, sensory and motor
systems, balance, coordination, and reflexes. Mental status
examinations must pay particular attention to changes in
the emotional state and cognitive functions. Asking the child
to copy a geometrical figure or to draw something of their
choice not only gives an insight into their fine motor functions
but also their cognition, attention, and emotional state.

Genital examination
A psychiatrist under most circumstances is not required to
perform a genital examination. In certain genetic disorders
such as Prader Willi Syndrome, Klinefelter’s Syndrome, or
other such conditions where an inspection of the genitalia
is required for making a diagnosis, it can be done, with
prior permission from the parent/guardian, in the presence
of another health-care provider and taking adequate care to
keep the young person comfortable. Otherwise, referral to
a pediatrician for evaluation may be considered.

Laboratory investigations
Laboratory investigations must be guided by history and
physical examination (Box 6). There is no standard battery
of investigations for psychiatric disorders. Under ideal
circumstances, a child will have a pediatrician involved in
their regular care. All investigations must be done in the
context of the child’s global health care. The psychiatrist
may do specific investigations pertaining to the child’s
mental health condition. For example, if a child is on
lithium then serum lithium level, renal function tests,
and thyroid function tests must be done. Similarly, an
electrocardiogram (ECG) is sought at baseline prior to
starting atypical antipsychotic agents such as quetiapine
or ziprasidone that could prolong the “QT interval.”
Subsequent measurements during dose increments may
also be needed. While a routine ECG is not required while
starting stimulant medication it may be required if the child
has symptoms suggestive of a cardiac illness or a family
history of cardiac illness. An electroencephalogram is not
routinely required in psychiatric disorders but may be
ordered if one suspects seizures or in high-risk groups such
as children with intellectual disability and autism spectrum
disorders. Routine genetic evaluations must not be done.
The presence of dysmorphic features and intellectual
disability in a child may prompt a genetic evaluation,
with the parents’ express consent. Conditions such as
early-onset psychosis and autism spectrum disorders

Box 6: Laboratory investigations in psychiatric
assessment of children and adolescents – some examples

guided by history and examination findings
Complete blood count: History of fever at onset of behavioral symptoms
Liver function tests: Prior to starting medication and in follow-up
Renal function tests and electrolytes: Prior to starting medication and in
Lead levels: If there is suspicion of lead exposure
Fasting blood glucose: If on atypical antipsychotics or valproate
Thyroid function test: Based on symptom profile, family history, use of
lithium, or in iodine deficiency endemic areas
Lipid profile: If on atypical antipsychotic medication or valproate
Serum prolactin: if symptomatic
Sexually-transmitted disease panel: HIV, HbsAg, HCV; if there is suspicion
of abuse, unprotected sexual activity
Urine pregnancy test: If there is history of abuse, unprotected sexual
Drug screen: History of substance use, first episode psychosis
Tandem mass spectrometry, urine screening for metabolic disorders:
Screening for genetic disorders
Neuroimaging: History of neurological symptoms or suspicion of genetic
syndrome with neurological involvement
HCV – Hepatitis c virus

Box 5: Physical examination in psychiatric assessment of
children and adolescents

Height, weight, BMI
Head circumference
Waist circumference
Pulse rate, blood pressure, temperature, respiratory rate
Head-to-toe examination: Head, eyes, nose, mouth, ears, throat, skin, hair, nails
Systemic examination: Cardiovascular, respiratory, per abdomen, central
nervous system
BMI – Body mass index

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may have some differential diagnoses and the laboratory
investigations must be guided by these possibilities.
Laboratory investigations relevant to a particular disorder
will be dealt with in guidelines pertaining to those clinical

A history of similar or other behavioral concerns and
history of medical issues must be asked for. It may not
be easy to disentangle “past episodes” in a child’s clinical
history as developmental, emotional, behavioral issues
most often run a continuous course. In developmental
disorders, therefore, there is no history. The history must
flow in a continuous manner from early developmental

period. However, in acting out behavior and in severe
mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder and psychosis,
episodic exacerbations can be made out. Functioning
of the child in the intervening period must be explored
in different contexts – interaction with parents and
significant others, self-care, academic performance,
relationship with peers, and pursuance of hobbies and
interests outside of academics. One must also look for
factors contributing to relapse – drug discontinuation,
familial/social stressors, any changes in the child’s living
or educational setting.

Medical illnesses can have multi-pronged effects on clinical
presentations [Figure 3]. These can broadly be understood
as direct effects emerging as behavioral manifestations of
medical/neurological illnesses, and indirect effects resulting
from the socio-emotional, occupational, and functional
consequences of the illness [Figure 5].

Pregnancy, perinatal, early developmental history
Several associations are seen between pregnancy,
maternal health, early exposure related variables
and developmental and behavioral outcomes during
childhood and adulthood. At the clinical assessment
level, it may not be possible to always conclude
causal influences, however, the knowledge of these
variables can guide further evaluations, shed light
on psychosocial circumstances of the family, help the
parents, and clinician gain some perspective on the
“global risk” in a child. Systematic questionnaires
such as the Pregnancy History Instrument-Revised[9]
could be used for a comprehensive coverage of various
pregnancy related and early developmental stressors.
During clinical evaluation, the areas covered in Table 3
could be assessed.

Figure 5: The impact of medical illnesses in childhood

Table 3: Pregnancy, perinatal and early developmental history
Historical domain Example questions
Preconception “Was this a planned pregnancy?”

“Were you (parents) prepared for the child?”
“Did you (mother) have any health problems before your pregnancy? What was their status around the time you conceived?”

Pregnancy For each trimester of pregnancy, the following questions can be asked”
“How was your health during the first/second/last 3 months of your pregnancy?”
“Did you have to undergo any procedures or treatments during this time?”
“How were you keeping psychologically and emotionally?”
“Was there enough support available to you from family?”
“Did you use any medications during this time?”
“Did you use any drugs (alcohol, tobacco, others)?”
“Did you meet with any accidents?”

Delivery “How long were you in labor?”
“Were there any complications?”

Post-natal period “How long after birth did the baby cry?”
“Did the doctors say there were any problems in the baby?”
“Did the baby require any medical care after birth? How many days after the baby’s birth did you return home?”

Neonatal period “How was your (mother) health and psychological well‑being during the first month?”
“Did the baby suffer from any medical problems?”
“Were there any ‘difficulties’ in looking after the baby during this time ‑ baby too irritable, sleeping difficulties, little help for the mother?”

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Developmental history
The developmental history of a child, across different
domains gives the “background” on which to understand
the current behavioral concerns and to plan pharmacological
and psychotherapeutic management. For instance, a child
with a developmental history of social and language delay,
presenting with peer relationship issues and bullying in
school, most probably has social skill deficits arising from
autism spectrum disorder. Another child with declining
academic performance with increasing school level, on
exploration may have developmental delay in multiple
domains, and the intellectual disability may be responsible
for the academic difficulties. A developmental profile of

the child requires information on (a) age at acquisition of
various milestones and (b) the current developmental level.
Under-stimulation and malnutrition could present with
a picture of early developmental delay, followed by rapid
catch-up growth and development, with the correction
of environmental and nutritional factors. Therefore,
while assessing development in a child, environmental
stimulation, and physical growth must be assessed alongside
developmental milestones. Children with developmental
problems are also most sensitive to environmental and
general health factors, i.e., a child with a developmental
delay is more likely to show developmental regression in
the context of a medical illness or parental absence due to

Table 4: Questions to elicit information on developmental domains
Developmental domain Example questions
Psychomotor “When did the child start walking?”

“What sports/activities does the child do? Which ones have gone well? Which ones not so well?”
Cognitive “Did the child show interest in things you pointed to? Did the child point out things to you?”

“At what age did the child begin play school/nursery? Were there any problems?”
“How does the child do in reading?. In arithmetic?. With writing?”
“Has the child had any difficulties in any specific subject?”
“Has the child ever failed in school?”
“Has the child ever been suspended from school, or has ever refused to go to school?”

Social/Interpersonal “How did the child relate to you?”
“How did the child respond to your directions?”
“When did the child start to show interest in other children? How did that go?”
“What kind of friends does the child have now?”
“How does the child get along with his friends?”

Emotional “Does the child recognize when he/she is feeling sad, .anxious, .angry?
“How does the child soothe himself/herself when in a bad mood or anxious?”
“What is the child’s most common mood state?”
“How does the child respond to unexpected changes? Disappointments? Frustrations?”

Moral “Does the child recognize right from wrong?”
“How does the child react when confronted with mistakes or doing something wrong?”
“Has the child deliberately hurt other people? Animals? Property?”
“Does the child consider consequences of his/her decisions on others?”
“Does the child show remorse after hurting others?”
“Is the child too perfectionistic or morally rigid?”

Table 5: Questions to elicit temperamental traits in a child
Temperamental trait Example questions
Activity levels “How active/energetic is the child generally?”

“Are there periods when the child can sit still, or is there constant movement? Fidgetiness?”
“What kind of games does a child prefer? Calm and quiet? Or noisy and energetic?”

Rhythmicity “Does the child eat/sleep regularly?”
“Are the sleeping and feeding patterns predictable?”

Distractibility “is the child able to concentrate on the activity he or she is doing?”
“Is the child easily distracted by, say, someone coming into the room or some noise outside the room?”

Approach/withdrawal “How does the child respond to new situations? People? Places? Things?”
“Does the child show interest in new situations? People? Places? Things?”

Adaptability “Does the child adjust to changes in his/her environment?”
“Does the child become upset if something in his/her environment changes?”

Attention span and

“Does the child complete activities he/she starts?”
“Does the child get easily frustrated if he/she faces some difficulties in a task?”

Intensity of reaction “Does the child show intense reactions, when he/she likes something? Is happy about something? Or is upset by
something?” OR “Is the child calm and not very emotional in his/her reactions to pleasant/unpleasant situations?”


“Is the child sensitive to sounds, tastes, smells, touch?”
“Does the child react to even minor changes in his/her surroundings?”
“Are even minor changes in his/her surroundings bothersome?”

Mood “How is the child’s mood most of the time?”
“Is he/she generally cheerful, pleasant, friendly? Or is he/she generally cranky and prone to crying?”

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Indian Journal of Psychiatry, Volume 61 (Supplement 2), January 2019S170

illness, than a child who was developing normally. A detailed
coverage of developmental milestones and elicitation
techniques is outside the scope of these guidelines. The
clinician is referred to key resources,[10] and webpages (https://
w w w. c d c . g o v / n c b d d d / a c t e a r l y / p d f / p a r e n t s _ p d f s /
milestonemomentseng508 , http://ctsmed.blogspot.
com/2012/09/how-to -learn-understand-and-memorize.
html) for further information. The developmental
assessment must also proceed with attention to parental
and child sensitivities. Parents are usually aware of even
mild delays in their child’s development, and there is a
tendency to self-blame. In fact, some parents have a eureka
moment when, say, the clinician points out how excessive
screen time and insufficient contact with same age peers is
playing a role in the child’s speech and social delay. Some
questions to elicit information on different aspects of child
development[11] are given in Table 4.

Temperamental history
In addition to developmental milestones, the
temperamental characteristics of a child have to be elicited.
Temperament refers to patterns of emotional and behavioral
reactivity to environmental situations and capacity for
self-regulation.[12] It is essentially a reflection of social and
emotional development in a child. Temperamental traits
described by Thomas and Chess[11] are useful to generate
a comprehensive picture of a child’s temperament. Table 5
gives the temperamental traits with questions on how to
elicit them. The parents may have to be reminded during
interview to give information on the child’s behavioral
tendencies prior to the occurrence of current behavioral
concerns. Parents’ information on different temperamental
traits in a child should be corroborated with examples of
the child’s behavior in different circumstances. This is
important as sometimes parents judge a child’s behavior
based on their own personality characteristics. Parents who
are passive and calm may over-report normative increases

in a child’s activity levels, for example, a child restless
in the first few days of starting school, or a child quickly
moving from one toy to the next at a friend’s place before
settling on one. This “goodness of fit”[13] or the absence of
it can have major influences on the parents perception and
reporting of behavioral concerns in a child.

Schooling history
School is the primary occupational arena for children and
adolescents. It is where elaboration of developmental
abilities, especially cognitive and socio-emotional abilities,
occurs. Information about school should be collected from
the child, parents, and teachers at school. There is a large
amount of information that could be collected about the
schooling experience of a child. Some important areas
include – age at starting school, initial adjustment challenges,
academic learning, peer group interactions, participation in
extra-curricular activities, absenteeism, change of school (if
ever, including reasons for the change) and troubles or
challenges the child is currently experiencing in school, if
any. Details about the school per se are also important in
order to completely understand the adjustment between
a child and the school. These include – the academic
board the school is affiliated to, if the school follows any
particular education philosophy (e.g., Waldorf education
system), teacher-student ratio, facilities for co-curricular
and extra-curricular activities, distance of the school
from child’s home, methods of disciplining followed by
the school, response of the school to bullying, etc. A lot
of children and adolescents attend tuitions postschool
hours. The duration, and nature of these tuitions including
whether these tuitions are one-on-one or group should
also be explored, in addition to the reasons for these extra
tuitions, and the child’s inclination for them.

Table 6: Questions to elucidate family factors in child mental health
Family history domain Example questions
Family history of psychiatric

“Have you (parents) ever suffered from any mental health problems?”
“Has anyone in your immediate or extended family ever suffered from any mental health problems?”
“Do you recall anyone in your immediate or extended family having had drug use, or a prolonged change in behavior?”
“Do you recall anyone in your immediate or extended family ever having attempted suicide?”
“Does the child know about/Has the child witnessed these illnesses?” How did he/she respond to it?”

Family history of medical

“Have you (parents) had any long-standing medical problems?”
“Has anyone in your immediate or extended family ever suffered from any long-standing medical problems?”
“Does the child know about/Has the child witnessed these illnesses?” How did he/she respond to it?”

Parental relationships “How would you describe your (parents) relationship?”
“Have there been any periods of discord/disharmony in your relationship?”

Parent-child relationship “How is your (parent) relationship with your child?”
“Does the child share his/her experiences with you?”
“Do you (parents) agree on how to respond to the child?”
“Is there anything that you (parents) do quite differently from each other?”
“Did you (parents) grow up in similar type of families?”

Relationship with significant
others in the family

“Did you (parents) grow up in similar type of families?”
“Do others take an active part in the day to day life of the child?”
“What kind of relationships does the child have with others in the family?”

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Box 7: Questions to explore child’s interests, skills and

“What makes the child happy?”
“What activities does the child enjoy?”
“What are the activities the child is good at?”
“What does the child express curiosity in?”

Child’s interests, skills and talents
The child and the parents must be asked about the skills,
and interests of the child (Box 7). It is important to frame
specific questions to get an accurate understanding about
the child. Enquiring about the child’s interests, skills and
talents, can be an ice-breaker or a communication starter
with the child. It makes the child aware that the interviewer
sees the child as a “person” and not just a problem. The
clinician must make a conscious effort to separate the
illness from the personhood of the child.

Family history
Family history is a vital component in the detailed assessment
of a child/adolescent. The occurrence, manifestation, and
exacerbations of all kinds of mental health issues are
affected by the medical/psychiatric history in the family
and relational dynamics. Enquiry into various aspects
of family history has to be sensitively carried forward as
parents may not readily appreciate the need for details on
this front. They may even be defensive, or nondisclosive.
Adequate understanding about family factors may happen
over a period of time. Parents need to be comfortable
talking about themselves, and sharing family details. Some
questions for exploration about various aspects of the family
are presented in Table 6. Responses to these questions can
be supplemented by further clarifications.

The presence of psychiatric and/or medical illnesses in the
family can impact the child in several ways.[14] Factors that
may directly impact the child include – genetic endowment,
early life exposures including intrauterine environment,
postnatal exposure to parental mental illness and the
physical/emotional unavailability of the parent. Factors
that may indirectly play a role include socioeconomic
disadvantages and parental conflict associated with mental
illness. Enquiry about mental illnesses in the family may
have to be done separately with each parent, and in the
absence of the child, as they may not have discussed this
with each other at all. At times parents may not even
reveal the fact that they themselves are suffering from
mental illness. Parental mental illness affects attachment
dynamics, and cognitive, emotional, social, and behavioral
development of children. It also puts the offspring at risk of
developing a mental illness in childhood, adolescence and
later in adult life.

Developmental disorders may be part of genetic syndromes
that may be associated with a unique family history profile.

The clinician may find consanguineous parentage, other
first/second degree relatives with developmental delays
or dysmorphic features or neurological or psychiatric
conditions. Family history could also impact treatment
decisions. A family history of young onset cardiac illness or
sudden death in young family members is especially relevant
for those children with ADHD in whom stimulant drugs are
being considered.[15] In such children, a detailed history
related to cardiac symptoms such as dyspnoea, palpitations,
fainting spells brought on by exercise needs to be obtained
apart from a referral to a pediatrician for a more detailed
cardiac assessment. A family history of diabetes mellitus,
hypothyroidism or neurological disorders are relevant from
a risk perspective, especially when psychotropics are being
considered for management.

More than just ascertaining the presence of a mentally/
medically ill parent, or significant family member, it is
important to understand what this has meant for the
child(ren) in the family. Children as young as infants
and preschoolers are able to “catch” the emotional
environment of the house and may respond with a variety
of behavioral, emotional changes – irritability, feeding,
and sleeping irregularities. The parent-child relationship
and the child’s relationship with significant others in the
family give further insights into how various behavioral
patterns may have established over a period of time.
These relationships are determined by the parent’s/family
member’s own personality traits and relational dynamics
within the family. These become particularly relevant in
the context of internalizing and externalizing disorders.
Vulnerabilities to anxiety disorders are perpetuated where
there is a combination of temperamental anxiety, behavioral
inhibition, and an anxious, over-cautious parent. Disruptive
behavior problems worsen with both over-authoritative, and
over-permissive parenting, where limits and boundaries are
unclear. The “goodness of fit” model[12] is pertinent here – “…
it is the nature of the interaction between the temperament and
the individual’s other characteristics with specific features of the
environment which provides the basic dynamic influence for the
process of development…”.[16]

Adoption – an experiential reality of its own
When a child is adopted into the family, it affects
interpersonal dynamics at every level. Once the
time-consuming legalities and practicalities of adoption
are done with, parent-child adjustments take priority,
and may take a long time to settle down, especially in
the case of older children. We are consciously refraining
from going into the details of enquiry in the context of
adoption. This merits independent practice guidelines.
However, we would like to mention a few issues here that
the clinician must enquire – the events preceding parents’
decision to adopt, parents’ and child’s age at adoption,
whether the child knows about the adoption, how has the
parent-child relationship been before and after disclosure,

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child’s relationship with other extended family members.
In addition, since currently the parents are bringing in
the child for a mental health concern, has this raised any
thoughts/concerns in their minds about adoption.

Past evaluation and interventions
Details about past assessments, evaluations, treatments,
response to the treatment, and side effects must be
collected. This informs future direction of evaluation and

Interview of children and adolescents
History and examination (Table 7) are not watertight
compartments. Observation of the child/adolescent
has to start soon as he/she first meets the clinician
Box 8. Mental states in children and adolescents may
have a higher intensity and frequency variation than

adults. For instance, depressive disorders in young people
have preserved reactivity such that a depressed child
may appear reasonably excited when given a toy to play
with during examination. Serial examinations are more
useful in getting a true picture about the mental state
characteristics. Children and adolescents may also not be
ready to immediately share their experiences, feelings, and
thoughts. This may happen because of unfamiliarity and
intimidation by the clinical setting, or a developmental
unreadiness. The clinician must not make presumptions

Table 7: Components of the mental status examination
MSE component Observable features/Phenomenon
Physical appearance Approximate age

Dysmorphic features
Abnormal movements – tics, mannerisms, stereotypies, hyperactivity

Manner of relating
to others

Eye contact, facial expressions, non-verbal gestures
Cooperation and engagement with examination
Overt behaviors – aggression, clinginess

Mood Type of mood – irritable, cheerful, sad
Variations in mood in relation to topics discussed
Range and reactivity – response to various topics discussed, activities carried out

Speech Tone, tempo, prosody, volume
Relevance to the context and coherence
Language skills especially complexity of language


Activity levels

Thinking Form of thought
Content of thought – Fears, Phobias, Delusions, Overvalued ideas,

Depressive cognitions, suicidal ideas, ideas about self-harm,
Preoccupations with risk-taking behavior

Possession of thought – obsessions & compulsions
Perception Hallucinations

Young children’s psychopathological experiences may have to be differentiated from fantasy and imaginary friends

Overall cognitive

Fund of knowledge – about games child likes, hobbies, daily routines, school
Drawings ‑ content, object specific colors

Orientation Time, place and person
Young children may be able to give only few details: time – morning/afternoon/evening, place – hospital/home/school, and
person – parent/doctor

Attention and

Persistence with a task
Tendency to get bored easily

Memory Short-term – Recall of last meal, recent school activities, recent celebrations at home
Long-term – Own birthday, family trips, vacation outings

Judgment Ability to judge hypothetical situations
Insight Acknowledgment of behavioral/emotional/psychological problems

Attitude towards and engagement with treatment
The ‘content’ of insight is highly determined by the age of the child, and may change/develop over time, e.g., in very young children the
child may only know that he or she gets angry and that needs to come down, whereas adolescents may recognize the anger, what triggers
it, and how the anger is problematic.

Box 8: General principles for mental status examinations
of children and adolescents

Observations have to be made throughout the interaction with the family
Serial examinations help uncover psychopathology
Developmentally appropriate techniques must be used
Behavioral observation may be more informative than thought/perceptual

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about the capacity of children to give information/
participate in an interview. Children as young as 2–3 years
old can answer simple questions about what they like,
who they like, what makes them angry, etc. The clinician
must make it a point address the child and ask questions
in an age appropriate language.

Use of developmentally appropriate techniques
Young children
Expressive channels evolve from play in very young children,
to art and other creative methods, and finally to verbal
dialogue in adolescents. The manner of exploration and
engagement with children must follow this understanding.
Therefore, waiting for preschool children to cooperate across
an interview table may not be successful, whereas letting the
child sift through toys, or be in a play area may reveal his
activity levels, attention span, ability to tolerate frustration,
and cognitive abilities. Use of colors, pens, paper, puzzles, peg
boards, can all be used in the office to facilitate interaction
with young children. Direct questions to a child should be
short, precise, in simple words, dealing with one concrete
issue at a time. For example, if a child is being bullied at school,
asking him/her “Does anyone trouble you at school?” would
be better than asking, “Can you tell me about any problems
you are facing at school?” Children are able to relate to, and
identify with cartoon characters and animals better than they
are able to talk about their own feelings and behaviors. Talking
to them using these familiar themes may facilitate disclosure
about their emotions, and experiences. Children may be
intimidated by the clinical setting, and uncomfortable with
direct questions. Use of paper and line diagrams, with both
the clinician and the child looking at the paper and talking
may be better than direct eye to eye contact.

The development of formal operational thinking in
adolescents puts them in a position to be able to not only

report their experiences, but also draw interpretations and
hypotheses. It is important to interview the adolescent alone,
since a developing self-awareness and self-consciousness
may make them feel inhibited in front of family. Adolescents
are also very concerned about not being believed, or being
considered weak or different. They often put a lot of time
and energy into “normalizing” their experiences, or denying
them. The clinician must therefore make all attempts to
make the adolescent feel comfortable and acknowledge
their subjectivities. Confidentiality can be a big issue,
especially in the context of substance use or sexuality. The
clinician must avoid false promises of confidentiality just
to get the adolescent to open up. Adolescents appreciate
logical arguments and find comfort in predictability. It is,
therefore, advisable for the clinician to be honest about the
limits of confidentiality.

Examination of infants and toddlers
Assessment of infants is especially challenging as the
clinician has no direct linguistic access to the problems
concerned. The assessment must rely on a three pronged
approach – parent interview, infant/toddler observation and
parent-child interaction.[17]

Parent interview
Given the proximity to and the evidence for influence
of birth and neonatal events on infant growth and
development, the parents’/caregivers’ must be asked to
give an account of events starting from pregnancy, delivery
and subsequent developmental details, comprehensively.
In addition, the psychological and emotional relationship
of the infant with parents and other family members
needs to be understood – “Was the pregnancy planned?
What were the parents’ expectations? How the infant
fits into the family? What does the infant mean to each
family member? What do caregivers like about the
infant? What is a typical day like in the life of the infant?”

Table 8: Observation of infants/toddlers
Age Infant 1 year 2 years 3 years
Fine motor Grasping

Bidextrous grasp: 3 months
Monodextrous grasp: 6 months
Pincer grasp: 9 months

Use spoon, pencil
Copy vertical line

Copy circle, cross

Gross motorTransfer objects: 6 months
Sitting: 6 months
Standing: before 1st birthday

Walking Climb stairs

Stand on one foot

Cognitive Finds an object after watching it
hidden: 9 months

Recovers hidden object through trial
and error

Understands sequence of activities – put
doll to bed, cover it, then turn off light
Matches shapes

Can understand numbers – 1
apple, 2 apples
Can understand time of day

Language Babbling: 4-5 months
Understands “NO”: 9 months

Picks up familiar objects when asked
Starts pointing to body parts between
1-2 years

Points to pictures, more body parts
Makes 2-3 word sentences
Can say “NO”

Can tell name, sex
Uses “I”, “You”
Knows positions – under,
on, in

Play Same behavior with all
objects – bangs, shakes, mouths
Inspects objects
Plays peek-a-boo: 9 months

Knows ‘social’ functions of
objects ‑ says ‘hello’ on phone,
‘drinks’ from toy cup

Plays in ‘parallel’ ‑ building a tower,
arranging objects in a line, without any
interaction with others

Takes ‘turns’ at throwing a
ball, turning pages of a book

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Parents/caregivers may be overwhelmed with fears and
guilt about being responsible for the infant’s problems.
They may be scared of finding out that the infant is
“damaged” or “defective.” Given these emotional
overtones, the historical account may not be clear and
coherent in the very first interaction. Parents may need
reassurance about the multi-factorial influences on child
development so that they feel confident enough to share
more information.

Infant and toddler observation
Observing infants and toddlers can uncover a range of
behavioral and developmental facets. Using play techniques,
especially with toddlers, can clarify cognitive, linguistic,
social, and motor developmental achievements. The child
has to be in a calm, alert state for the best estimation of
cognitive and socio-emotional development. Therefore, if the
child is irritable, from hunger or some physical discomfort,
the parents may be asked to attend to the immediate needs
of the child and then resume assessment process.

Physical health status of the child could give important
clues to possibility of underlying medical conditions as also
under-stimulation and parent-child attachment. Height/
length, weight, state of skin and hair, and the activity
levels – curiosity, interest in the environment – can be easily
observed during the first few minutes of the assessment.

Sensory abilities – vision, hearing – mature rapidly during
the 1st year of life. Up to 2–3 months of age, infants are
long-sighted and can see clearly at about 12 inches away,
thereafter visual accommodation matures and the infant is
able to track near and far objects, and respond to parents’
faces. In a quiet, alert state even neonates can turn their
head to sound. The clinician should note if the child appears
sensitive to sounds and visual stimulation. Some children
with premature birth, and developmental disorders could
have very low or very high sensory thresholds. Sensory
stimulation may need to be accordingly adjusted to
effectively engage the child.

Domains of growth and development to be observed during
consultation are given in Table 8. The child can be made to
do these activities with encouragement from the parents.
Variations could arise from developmental deviations.
Temperamental differences may affect how easy/difficult it
is to engage the child. Thus, a single assessment may not
give an indication of the child’s “highest” developmental
achievements. A combination of historical information
from the parents and a series of observations are more

While attempting simple activities to observe above
mentioned developmental abilities, the clinician could also
gain an idea about the child’s temperament (Box 9).

Parent-child interaction
In toddlerhood, with their increasing motor and cognitive
capacities, children are quite exploratory. It is during this
time that attachment and parent-child responsivities can
play a significant role in facilitating/hampering growth.
Some simple observations during consultation are listed
in Box 10. Children with developmental problems may not
show these behaviors, and may stay engrossed in solitary

Multidisciplinary referrals
Child and adolescent psychiatry necessitates evaluations
and interventions from a multidisciplinary team most
often consisting of a clinical psychologist, pediatrician,
psychiatric social worker, speech and language pathologist,
occupational therapist, and other health-care professionals.
The psychiatrist needs to make appropriate referrals to
these professionals to gain a holistic understanding of the
child and family and plan interventions accordingly.

Record keeping
Children, parents, and families who come in for a psychiatric
consultation are often loaded with historical details, and
are distressed by the referral and evaluation process. It
is understandably tedious for them to have to repeat
information over consultations. Reviewing clinical notes
from previous consultations puts the clinician in a clearer
frame of mind in terms of future course of enquiry and future
planning. It is good practice to have a recording format for
recording history, examination, and clinical discussion details.
The information gathered can be fed back to the family so
that they have an understanding about the future course of
action – one child may need to be scheduled for an IQ test,
another child may need to come in for a more elaborate
consultation with additional members of the family, and so
on. Evaluation in child and adolescent psychiatry is layered
and complex. Clinical impressions may change from the
first contact to the next. It is useful to go over in detail the
clinical history at least a few times. The “detailed work-up
pro forma” systematically records information on all aspects
of a child’s life. As parents answer questions pertaining to
different domains they too get clarity on the multi-factorial
contributors to the child’s difficulties.

Box 9: Temperamental characteristics of the

“How does the child cope with frustration, i.e., not being able to carry out
an activity?”
“Does the child persist with the task despite failures?”
“What is the level of mental and physical engagement in an activity?”

Box 10: Parent-child interaction
“Does the child approach the parent for help or reassurance?”
“Does the child show his/her “successes” to the parent?”
“Is the parent intrusive and controlling, or comfortable and facilitatory?”

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Indian Journal of Psychiatry, Volume 61 (Supplement 2), January 2019 S175


Child and adolescent mental health shares close links with
other medical specialties such as neurology and pediatrics
while being rooted in the child’s psychosocial environment
and experience. Assessment of children and adolescents must
evolve from a biopsychosocial perspective, taking into account
these inextricably interlinked aspects. Clinical history taking
and interviewing are one of the most powerful tools available
to the child and adolescent mental health professional to make
a diagnosis and plan management. These guideline can be
used as an aid in that endeavor. Other measures such as rating
scales, diagnostic interviews, and laboratory investigations
must be used in conjunction with the information obtained
during history taking and interviewing. The clinician must
be sensitive to the child’s lived experience and culture as
well as their developmental and cognitive capabilities.
Clinical judgment and expertise is required to assimilate the
information obtained from the child and other key informants.
In child and adolescent mental health, multidisciplinary inputs
are required for almost every child and family and efforts
must be made to link the different arms of evaluation and
treatment such that there is convergence. Confidentiality and
the limits thereof must be discussed with the child and family.
Documentation is a very important aspect of assessment
and must be strictly maintained. A comprehensive clinical
assessment goes a long way in ensuring interventions in the
best interest of the child and family.

The authors would like to acknowledge Dr. Gautam Saha
(Consultant Psychiatrist, Clinic Brain, Barasat, Kolkata),
Dr. I. D. Gupta (Professor of Psychiatry, SMS Medical College,
Jaipur) and Dr. Chimay Barhale (Consultant Psychiatrist,
Shanti Nursing Home, Aurangabad) for their valuable
inputs during the workshop on the development of Clinical
Practice Guidelines in Jaipur, August, 2018.

Financial support and sponsorship

Conflicts of interest
There are no conflicts of interest.


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NIMHANS. Supported by Department of Women and Child Development,
Government of Karnataka; 2015.

8. Towbin KE. Physical examination and medical investigation. In: Thapar A,
Pine DS, Leckman JF, Scott S, Snowling MJ, Taylor E, editors. Rutter’s
Child and Adolescent Psyhciatry. 6th edition. Chichester, West Sussex;
Ames, Iowa: John Wiley & Sons Inc; 2015.

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pregnancy history: Accuracy and Bias in Schizophrenia Research.
Schizophr Bull 2000;26:335‑50.

10. King RA. Practice parameters for the psychiatric assessment of children
and adolescents. American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry 1997;36:4S‑20S.

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Brunner/Mazel; 1996.

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Psychol Sci 2007;16:207‑12.

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Strelau J, Angleitner A, editors. Explorations in Temperament Perspectives
on Individual Differences. Boston, M.A.: Springer; 1991.

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Psychiatry 2006;5:10‑2.

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Mazel; 1977.

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Rubric Detail


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Name: NRNP_6665_Week1_Discussion_Rubric


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List View

8 (8%) – 8 (8%)
Response has some depth and may exhibit critical thinking or application to practice setting.

7 (7%) – 7 (7%)
Response is on topic, may have some depth.

0 (0%) – 6 (6%)
Response may not be on topic, lacks depth.

6 (6%) – 6 (6%)
Communication is professional and respectful to colleagues.
Response to faculty questions are fully answered, if posed.
Provides clear, concise opinions and ideas that are supported by two or more credible sources
Response is effectively written in standard, edited English.

5 (5%) – 5 (5%)
Communication is mostly professional and respectful to colleagues.
Response to faculty questions are mostly answered, if posed.
Provides opinions and ideas that are supported by few credible sources
Response is written in standard, edited English.

0 (0%) – 3 (3%)
Responses posted in the Discussion lack effective communication.
Responses to faculty questions are missing.
No credible sources are cited.

5 (5%) – 5 (5%)

Meets requirements for timely, full, and active participation
Posts by due date

4 (4%) – 4 (4%)
Meets requirements for full participation
Posts by due date

3 (3%) – 3 (3%)
Posts by due date

0 (0%) – 2 (2%)
Does not meet requirements for full participation
Does not post by due date






Main Posting:
Response to the Discussion question is reflective with critical analysis and synthesis representative of knowledge gained from the course readings for the module and current credible sources.

40 (40%) – 44 (44%)

Thoroughly responds to the Discussion question(s)
Is reflective with critical analysis and synthesis representative of knowledge gained from the course readings for the module and current credible sources
No less than 75% of post has exceptional depth and breadth
Supported by at least three current credible sources

35 (35%) – 39 (39%)

Responds to most of the Discussion question(s)
Is somewhat reflective with critical analysis and synthesis representative of knowledge gained from the course readings for the module
50% of the post has exceptional depth and breadth
Supported by at least three credible references

31 (31%) – 34 (34%)

Responds to some of the Discussion question(s)
One to two criteria are not addressed or are superficially addressed
Is somewhat lacking reflection and critical analysis and synthesis
Somewhat represents knowledge gained from the course readings for the module
Post is supported by fewer than two credible references

0 (0%) – 30 (30%)

Does not respond to the Discussion question(s)
Lacks depth or superficially addresses criteria
Lacks reflection and critical analysis and synthesis
Does not represent knowledge gained from the course readings for the module
Contains only one or no credible references

Main Posting:

6 (6%) – 6 (6%)

Written clearly and concisely
Contains no grammatical or spelling errors
Adheres to current APA manual writing rules and style

5 (5%) – 5 (5%)

Written concisely
May contain one to two grammatical or spelling errors
Adheres to current APA manual writing rules and style with minor errors

4 (4%) – 4 (4%)

Written somewhat concisely
May contain more than two spelling or grammatical errors
Contains some APA formatting errors

0 (0%) – 3 (3%)

Not written clearly or concisely
Contains more than two spelling or grammatical errors
Does not adhere to current APA manual writing rules and style

Main Posting:
Timely and full participation

9 (9%) – 10 (10%)

Meets requirements for timely, full, and active participation

Posts main Discussion by due date

8 (8%) – 8 (8%)

Posts main Discussion by due date
Meets requirements for full participation

7 (7%) – 7 (7%)

Posts main Discussion by due date

0 (0%) – 6 (6%)

Does not meet requirements for full participation
Does not post main Discussion by due date

First Response:
Post to colleague’s main post that is reflective and justified with credible sources

9 (9%) – 9 (9%)

Response exhibits critical thinking and application to practice settings
Responds to questions posed by faculty
The use of scholarly sources to support ideas demonstrates synthesis and understanding of learning objectives.

8 (8%) – 8 (8%)

Response has some depth and may exhibit critical thinking or application to practice setting.

7 (7%) – 7 (7%)

Response is on topic, may have some depth.

0 (0%) – 6 (6%)

Response may not be on topic, lacks depth.

First Response:

6 (6%) – 6 (6%)

Communication is professional and respectful to colleagues.
Response to faculty questions are fully answered, if posed.
Provides clear, concise opinions and ideas that are supported by two or more credible sources
Response is effectively written in standard, edited English.

5 (5%) – 5 (5%)

Communication is mostly professional and respectful to colleagues.
Response to faculty questions are mostly answered, if posed.
Provides opinions and ideas that are supported by few credible sources
Response is written in standard, edited English.

4 (4%) – 4 (4%)

Response posted in the Discussion may lack effective professional communication.
Response to faculty questions are somewhat answered, if posed.
Few or no credible sources are cited.

0 (0%) – 3 (3%)

Responses posted in the Discussion lack effective communication.
Responses to faculty questions are missing.
No credible sources are cited.

First Response:
Timely and full participation

5 (5%) – 5 (5%)

Meets requirements for timely, full, and active participation

Posts by due date

4 (4%) – 4 (4%)

Meets requirements for full participation
Posts by due date

3 (3%) – 3 (3%)

Posts by due date

0 (0%) – 2 (2%)

Does not meet requirements for full participation
Does not post by due date

Second Response:
Post to colleague’s main post that is reflective and justified with credible sources

9 (9%) – 9 (9%)

Response exhibits critical thinking and application to practice settings.
Responds to questions posed by faculty
The use of scholarly sources to support ideas demonstrates synthesis and understanding of learning objectives.

Second Response:

4 (4%) – 4 (4%)

Response posed in the Discussion may lack effective professional communication.
Response to faculty questions are somewhat answered, if posed.
Few or no credible sources are cited.

Second Response:
Timely and full participation

Total Points: 100

Name: NRNP_6665_Week1_Discussion_Rubric

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