KidsMD Health Topics

Adjustment Disorders in Children

  • An adjustment disorder is defined as an emotional or behavioral reaction to an identifiable stressful event or change in a person's life that is considered maladaptive or somehow not an expected healthy response to the event or change. The reaction must occur within three months of the identified stressful event or change happening. The identifiable stressful event or change in the life of a child or adolescent may be a family move, parental divorce or separation, the loss of a pet, birth of a brother or sister, to name a few. 

    Who is affected by adjustment disorders?    

    Adjustment disorders are quite common in children and adolescents. They occur equally in males and females. While adjustment disorders occur in all cultures, the stressors and the signs may vary based on cultural influences. Adjustment disorders occur at all ages, however, it is believed that characteristics of the disorder are different in children and adolescents than they are in adults. Differences are noted in the symptoms experienced, severity and duration of symptoms, and in the outcome. Adolescent symptoms of adjustment disorders are more behavioral such as acting out, while adults experience more depressive symptoms. 

    Did you know?

    • 1 out of 5, or 15 million kids nationwide, have a diagnosable mental health concern
    • 100,000 Massachusetts children with mental illness don't receive necessary care
    • 90 percent of children who commit suicide have diagnosable, treatable mental disorders
    • 85 state legislators have signed on as supporters of a new bill to improve mental healthcare for children
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