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There is increased focus on using research evidence to guide clinical practice in the provision of child mental health services, to allocate resources and to make policy decisions. Emphasis has been placed on randomised controlled trials, which are clearly vital. However, given the complexity of children’s lives and the multiple systems relevant to their care, it is important to consider alternative research designs and to think creatively about outcomes. In the context of difficulties with random allocation a number of quasi-experimental designs are described that may more closely reflect actual clinical work. In the context of ecological theory, the importance of taking a systems level approach to evaluation is highlighted, with examples from the US. Finally, the ways in which qualitative outcomes measures can be used to sensitively describe the effects of treatment are outlined, and their potential for giving voice to children and families as consumers of mental health services. These suggestions aim to lessen the tension between the requirements of the scientific investigations of treatment effectiveness and the realities of clinicians’ daily experiences. © 1997 Wiley. All rights reserved.

Original publication




Journal article


Children and Society

Publication Date





89 - 96