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01-01-2014 | Original Paper | Uitgave 1/2014

Journal of Child and Family Studies 1/2014

Children of Mentally Ill Parents Participating in Preventive Support Groups: Parental Diagnoses and Child Risk

Journal of Child and Family Studies > Uitgave 1/2014
Floor van Santvoort, Clemens M. H. Hosman, Karin T. M. van Doesum, Jan M. A. M. Janssens


In the Netherlands, preventive support groups are offered to children of mentally ill parents. Given the variety of parental diagnoses it might be questionable if offering a standardized program for all these children is the most effective response. While no overall knowledge exists about the type of parental disorder and varying risk levels and support needs among the participating children, we examined whether there are differences between these children that are related to their parents’ diagnoses. With questionnaires we assessed risk factors in 122 mentally ill parents and their children: high parental illness severity, low perceived parental competence, parent–child interaction problems, poor family functioning, difficult child temperament, and low child competence. We also assessed the children’s psychosocial problems and negative cognitions about their parent’s illness. Results showed that most parents had co-morbidity (multiple diagnoses) and/or personality disorders. Children of parents with either of these conditions were more likely to be exposed to the risk factors: high parental illness severity, low perceived parental competence, problematic parent–child interaction, and low perceived child competence, compared to children of parents without these conditions. They were also faced with more risk factors and had more psychosocial problems and negative cognitions. From these results we may conclude that children of parents with co-morbidity and/or personality disorders require more extensive support than children of parents without these conditions. We suggest strengthening the children’s competence and involving parents as important focuses of preventive interventions for children at high risk. Longitudinal studies should test these assumptions.

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