Childhood obsessive-compulsive disorder in the NIMH MECA study: Parent versus child identification of cases

Judith L. Rapoport, Gale Inoff-Germain, Myrna M. Weissman, Steven Greenwald, William E. Narrow, Peter S. Jensen, Benjamin B. Lahey, Glorisa Canino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

118 Scopus citations


Because as many as 50% of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) cases have had onset by age 15, interest in its detection in childhood is strong. Clinical experience indicates that children often try to keep their OCD secret and that parental report may give marked underestimates. The authors examined the prevalence of childhood OCD in the NIMH Methods for the Epidemiology of Child and Adolescent Mental Disorders (MECA) Study, a four-site community survey which allowed comparison of both parent and child report of the child's OCD and related symptoms and disorders. OCD cases, based on structured interviews (DISC-2.3 with DSM-III-R criteria) with 1,285 caretaker-child pairs, were identified separately for parent and child (aged 9 through 17) informants from the MECA database. Cases were then examined for demographic characteristics, for obsessive-compulsive symptoms and other diagnoses reported in cases 'missed' by one reporter, and for comorbid disorders. Of a total of 35 (2.7%) identified cases, four (0.3%) were identified by the parent and 32 (2.5%) were identified by the child, with only one overlapping case. In general, when OCD cases were 'missed' by one reporter, that reporter did not substitute another disorder. These findings support clinical data that children with OCD often hide their illness and underscore the importance of child interviews for its detection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)535-548
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of anxiety disorders
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2000


  • Adolescents
  • Child report
  • Children
  • Detection of cases
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Parent report
  • Prevalence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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