The study compared the psychiatric symptoms, coping skills, and family functioning of adolescent psychiatric inpatients and their primary caretakers with a non-clinical comparison group of adolescents and their primary caretakers. Participants completed measures of psychiatric symptoms, life experiences, problem-solving ability, family functioning, and anger. MANOVAs compared the adolescents and caretakers across the normative and clinical samples. A discriminate function analysis predicted membership in the clinical and non-clinical sample. Primary caretakers for the hospitalized adolescents reported significant differences in self-reported family functioning, life stress, psychiatric symptoms, and ratings of adolescent problem behaviors. These variables successfully classified 78% of the sample as inpatient or non-clinical comparison subjects. Adolescents hospitalized for psychiatric reasons did not differ from their non-clinical counterparts on self-report measures of psychiatric symptoms, distress, problem behaviors, problem solving, or trait anger. Independent of psychiatric status, adolescent self-reported family functioning and adolescent problem solving skills predicted the number of problems adolescents endorsed, the number of symptoms adolescents endorsed, and adolescent levels of trait anger. Although a brief psychiatric hospitalization seemed effective in treating adolescent mental health patients, the primary caretakers remained more symptomatic than a non-clinical cohort. Continuing to focus on the development of health care policies that are sensitive to needs of the primary caretakers will likely enhance long-term outcomes. ©Freund Publishing House Ltd.