More than 7 percent of kids are taking medication for behavioral or emotional difficulties, but factors like gender, race and family income appear to affect the likelihood of a child being prescribed the drugs. (Shutterstock)

More than 7 percent of kids are taking medication for behavioral or emotional difficulties, but factors like gender, race and family income appear to affect the likelihood of a child being prescribed the drugs. (Shutterstock)

A new survey from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds 7.5 percent of American children are taking medication to address behavioral or emotional difficulties and in most cases parents say the drugs are making a big difference.

Boys and children who are white are most likely to be prescribed medication for behavioral or emotional issues. Children in low-income families and those insured by Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program are also taking the drugs in greater numbers.

The findings are based on interviews with parents of kids ages 6 to 17 across the country who participated in the National Health Interview Survey in 2011 and 2012.

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For the survey, parents were asked if their kids had taken medication in the previous six months to address difficulties with emotions, concentration, behavior or being able to get along with others.

Among parents who answered yes, more than half indicated the drugs helped their children “a lot.”

The survey did not ask specifically what medications children were prescribed but researchers at the CDC indicated that their findings support a larger trend.

“Over the past two decades, the use of medication to treat mental health problems has increased substantially among all school-aged children and in most subgroups of children,” they wrote.

Beyond gender, race and income variables, the CDC also found significant differences in prescription trends by region. Medication use is most common among children in the South where over 9 percent of kids are taking the drugs compared to just 5 percent in the West where it is least prevalent.