Mental health of young people in Australia

Appendix C: Terminology used in the report

Page last updated: October 2000

Definition of mental disorders and mental health problems
Sample and response rate
Demographic characteristics

Definition of mental disorders and mental health problems

  1. Emotional and behavioural problems

    There is no exact definition for the term 'emotional and behavioural problems'. The term is generally used to describe a wide range of individual behaviours or emotions that are commonly associated with personal distress or dysfunction.

  2. Mental disorder

    As defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition (American Psychiatric Association, 1994), mental disorders are conceptualised as clinically significant behavioural or psychological syndromes or patterns that are associated with present distress or disability. They are also associated with increased risk of death, pain or disability in the future. Mental disorders are considered to be a manifestation of behavioural, psychological or biological dysfunction in individuals.

  3. Mental health problems

    Children and adolescents were considered to have a mental health problem if the number of emotional and behavioural problems they were experiencing was in the range typically reported for children and adolescents attending mental health clinics (Achenbach, 1991a; Achenbach, 1991b). The Child Behaviour Checklist completed by parents and the Youth Self-Report completed by adolescents were used to identify the number of emotional and behavioural problems being experienced by young people. The 'clinical range' of problems was identified using the recommended cut-off ('threshold') scores described in the checklist manuals (Achenbach, 1991a; Achenbach, 1991b).
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Sample and response rate

  1. Sampling method

    A multi-stage probability sample was used to obtain a representative sample of children aged 4 to 17 years. 'Clusters' of 10 fully responding households with children and adolescents in the required age-range were sampled from each of 450 Collector's Districts (CDs) across Australia. The number of CDs sampled within each state or territory was in proportion to the size of the target populations within those areas, and CDs were also distributed proportionately across metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas (except in the Northern Territory where only a metropolitan sample was drawn).

  2. Participation rate

    The participation rate in the survey was 86%. It was calculated by dividing the number of households with a child aged 4 to 17 years that participated in the survey by the total number of households that were contacted and identified to contain a child aged 4 to 17 years.

  3. Response rate

    The response rate in the survey was 70%. It was calculated by dividing the number of households that contained a child aged 4 to 17 years who participated in the study by the total number of households that were initially identified as potential participants in the survey. No contact was made with a family member in a number of households and it was estimated that 19% of the households that were not contacted would have contained a child eligible to participate in the survey. The response rate includes an adjustment to take these children into account. The major reason for the difference in the response rate and the participation rate was a failure by interviewers to make contact with a number of the identified households before selecting a replacement household.

  4. Survey weights

    Even the best designed sampling strategy results in a sample that is not exactly representative of the total population under study. Estimates of prevalence for the entire population of children and adolescents in Australia were therefore obtained by weighting each individual's responses according to the degree to which that individual's demographic grouping was under- or over-represented in the final sample. These weights were calculated on the basis of a classification by age (2-year bands), gender and state, with reference to the estimated population numbers for the same classification at June 30th, 1998, as supplied by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Given that the sample probabilities were the same for both metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas (with the exception that no non-metropolitan subjects were sampled from the Northern Territory) no attempt was made to weight by this demographic characteristic. Overall, the demographic characteristics of the survey sample were found to be highly comparable with the Australian Bureau of Statistics census figures. However, there was some minor deviation from census figures in a few age and gender groups. In particular, children in the 4-to-5-year age group were slightly oversampled, while adolescents aged 16 to 17 were slightly undersampled.
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Demographic characteristics

In general, the demographic characteristics of participants were described using the classification system employed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
  1. Metropolitan/non-metropolitan

    Children who resided in the capital cities of the states and territories were classified as living in metropolitan regions. Children who resided in all other areas were classified as living in non-metropolitan regions. The latter includes regional centres and rural areas. As some regional centres are quite large, it should not be assumed that all the children and adolescents classified as residing in non-metropolitan regions were necessarily living in a rural environment.

  2. Employment categories

    Parents or caregivers were classified as being 'employed' if, in the week prior to participating in the survey, they had a job of any kind. A job was defined as any type of work including casual or temporary work or part-time work of one hour or more. This category included those on holidays, on paid leave, or those temporarily stood down. Those doing unpaid work in a family business were also considered to be employed. Parents or caregivers were classified as being 'not in paid employment' if they did not have a job or were doing other unpaid work. Those who were not in the labour force (i.e., those not looking for work) were also included in this category.

  3. Weekly household income

    Weekly household income was calculated by adding the individual gross incomes of the primary caregiver and any spouse or partner. Respondents were asked to include wages, salaries, overtime, family allowance and other benefits such as child support, superannuation, interest received, dividends and business income in their estimate of their gross income.
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