Adjustment Disorders

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This fact sheet was developed by our partners at the Minnesota Department of Human Services, Children´s Mental Health Division, for use in determining eligibility for early intervention services only.


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Condition Description
Adjustment Disorder is a formal mental health diagnosis given to an infant or toddler by a licensed mental health professional using the Diagnostic Classification of Mental Health and Developmental Disorders of Infancy and Early Childhood: Revised Edition (DC:0-3R). The diagnosis requires that the young child has been exposed to an environmental stressor and is experiencing transient disturbance related to the exposure. The symptoms of disturbance must appear within one month of the exposure to the stressor and be present for more than two weeks. The child must not qualify for another Axis I DC: 0-3R diagnosis.1

Common Complications
If untreated, young children with adjustment disorder may develop more severe mental health conditions. As a result of these exacerbated mental health conditions, young children may experience delays in development and demonstrate difficulties in their relationships with others. They may also demonstrate difficulties in later school achievement and develop behaviors that require juvenile corrections interventions.2,3

Treatment Options
While the research surrounding effective treatment options to address this disorder is minimal, experts in the field recommend a combination of psychotherapy and parent education.4 Additionally, as with all interventions targeted toward young children, consistent and frequent communication across all of the systems working with the child (the child's primary care givers, child care providers, primary health care providers, mental health providers, etc.), is essential for optimal success in treatment. 5

References
1 Zero to Three (2005). Diagnostic Classification of Mental Health and Developmental Disorders of Infancy and Early Childhood: Revised Edition. Washington: ZERO TO THREE Press.
2 Zigler, E., Taussig, C., & Black, K. (1992). Early childhood intervention: A promising preventative for juvenile delinquency. American Psychologist, 47(8), 997-1006.
3 President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health. (2003). Goal 4: Early mental health screening, assessment and referral to services are common practice. Achieving the Promise: Transforming Mental Health Care in America. 57-66.
4 Maldonado-Durάn, J. M. (1997). Adjustment disorder. In A. Lieberman, S. Wieder & E. Fenichel (Eds.), DC: 0-3 Case Book (pp.181-194). Washington, D. C.: ZERO TO THREE.
5 Parlakian, P. and Seibel, N.L. (2002). Building Strong Foundations, Practical Guidance for Promoting the Social-Emotional Development of Infants and Toddlers. Washington: ZERO TO THREE Press.

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