chapter  Ten
6 Pages

Effects of parental mental illness on children and families

WithQuentin Spender, Niki Salt, Judith Dawkins, Tony Kendrick, Peter Hill, David Hall, Jackie Carnell

Any form of mental health problem affects not only the patient, but also all of the other family members. Clinical experience suggests that there is an emphasis within adult mental health teams on the patient alone, so that the needs of parents and children may be overlooked. Children often cope well when a parent is ill for a limited period of time, especially if they can be helped to accept that their parent is unwell. The outcome for the children seems to depend on how well-developed attachments have been before the onset of illness, and the quality of attachments with other adults. The parent's own disorder must of course be assessed, but it is important to consider the adequacy of parenting. The children of non-psychotic parents often fare worse than those with psychotic parents, especially when their parents' state is combined with personality dysfunction and social and marital adversity.