Mental health problems among schoolchildren in United Arab Emirates: Prevalence and risk factors

Valsamma Eapen, Lihadh Al-Gazali, Salem Bin-Othman, Mohammed Abou-Saleh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

92 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: To examine child psychiatric morbidity in an Arab culture. Method: Emotional and behavioral problems were investigated in 3,278 schoolchildren aged 6 to 15 years using a two-stage epidemiological study in Al Ain District, United Arab Emirates. Children were screened using standardized questionnaires completed by parents and school physicians in the first stage, and a stratified random sample were interviewed by a child psychiatrist in the second stage. Results: 23.9% of children were reported to have a mental health problem by either the parent or the school health physician. Boys were more often reported to be having problems than girls (1.8:1). Using the Rutter A2 scale for parents, the prevalence estimate for behavioral disorders was 16.5%. The weighted prevalence for DSM-IV disorders was 10.4% for the entire population. The presence of certain culture-specific risk factors such as male gender, number of children in the household, polygamy, and low socioeconomic status were identified for psychiatric disorders. A positive family history and consanguinity were the most significant factors associated with learning disorders. Conclusions: The prevalence rates of child psychiatric disorders and the symptomatology observed in this Middle East community are similar to those reported in Western studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)880-886
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1998


  • Arab culture
  • Childhood psychopathology
  • Epidemiology
  • Risk factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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