Primary Caregiver Attitudes and Counseling Centers in High Poverty Elementary Schools


Emma Westra

Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Joseph R. Morris, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Alan J. Hovestadt, Ed.D.

Third Advisor

Shamika Y. Hall, Ph.D.


Elementary, help seeking, parents, poverty, school counseling


Children living in poverty are in high need of mental health services, yet do not receive them (Allegria et al., 2010; Hodgkinson et al., 2017) due to barriers including cost of services, inaccessible location, and transportation issues (Allegria et al., 2015). Additionally, primary caregivers are important gatekeepers for children receiving mental health services (Reardon et al., 2017). While the presence of counseling centers in elementary schools can reduce multiple barriers children living in high poverty areas experience, it is unknown if primary caregivers would select these services for their children. The present study used quantitative analysis to explore hypotheses regarding the relationship between primary caregivers’ help-seeking attitudes, help-seeking intentions, felt stigmatization, and perception of child’s problems.

Eighty-one participants were recruited from three Midwest elementary public schools. The measures used in the study included a demographic questionnaire, previous mental health experience questionnaire, the Parental Attitudes Toward Psychological Services Inventory (PATSI; Turner, 2012), and the Brief Problem Monitor–Parent form for Ages 6–18 (BPM-P; Achenbach & Rescorla, 2001). Primary analyses were conducted using multiple t tests and linear regression.

Results of this study indicate that primary caregivers, who have previously received mental health services, are more likely to consider mental health services for their children. Findings also support primary caregivers seeking mental health services for their children if the child is engaging in external behaviors, e.g., fighting, yelling, not following directions vs internalizing behaviors, e.g., symptoms of worrying, anxiety, depression. The findings of this study may be helpful for mental health professionals who work within schools, professionals planning to increasing counseling centers in schools, and professionals interested in increasing community engagement. Results of the study should also be incorporated within curricula that prepare mental health professionals and other school staff for work in schools.

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