Family matters: infants, toddlers and preschoolers of parents affected by mental illness
SourceMedical Journal of Australia, 1, S, (2012), pp. 14-17
Article / Letter to editor
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SW OZ BSI KLP
Medical Journal of Australia
SubjectExperimental Psychopathology and Treatment
One in five young people in Australia, including infants, toddlers and preschoolers, lives in a family with a parent with a mental illness.1 Families affected by mental illness are more likely than other families to experience poverty and social isolation,2 and are more likely to have children taken into care.3 A combination of factors influences the child’s risk of psychopathology. These include psychosocial adversity, the child’s developmental status and age, genetics, family relationships, the severity and chronicity of parental psychiatric disorder, comorbidity, and the involvement of other carers in the child’s life. Not all children whose parents have mental health problems will experience difficulties themselves.4 Parental diagnosis itself does not confer risk, and many parents with severe depression, schizophrenia and other disorders are adequate caregivers.5 Rather, it is the severity and chronicity of psychopathology and the variation in parental personality, genetic characteristics, coping style and social circumstances that confer risk. Children’s characteristics, such as temperament and sex, can also influence the parent–child relationship and parenting behaviour.6 This article outlines the impact of three key mental health disorders on parenting and young offspring, and describes implications for practice.
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