Parental Report of Receipt of Adolescent Preventive Health Counseling Services from Pediatric Providers

Two medical professionals sit with a young disabled boy.

Most parents surveyed recalled discussing at least one prevention topic with their child’s provider; but not the “hard” topics related to substance abuse and mental health.

The Issue:

Current national guidelines recommend that pediatric health providers deliver prevention information to parents as well as adolescents. Parents, armed with age-appropriate information about preventive health issues can identify health problems early and get their children needed help. Physicians, however, often lack time during busy well-child visits to provide information.

Key Findings

  • Most (83%) parents recalled at least one of 22 listed adolescent health topics was discussed with the provider. A few (6%) recalled discussing all. The median number of topics discussed was five.

  • More parents recalled general prevention topics (74%) than mental health ones (65%) or high-risk behavior topics (61%).

  • Parents accompanying their children on well-child visits had twice the odds of recalling having discussed a mental health topic than parents accompanying on other visits.


Parents’ recall of prevention-focused counseling was lowest for topics associated with adolescent morbidity—sexual health, substance use and abuse, and mental health.

About the Study:

Researchers administered a pen-and-paper questionnaire to parents accompanying children ages 11 to 18 at outpatient clinics in Pittsburgh in 2009.