Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology

, Volume 43, Issue 11, pp 927–935 | Cite as

Counting children at risk

Exploring a method to estimate the number of children exposed to parental mental illness using adult health survey data
  • Diego Garcia Bassani
  • Cintia Vontobel Padoin
  • Scott Veldhuizen


Children exposed to parental psychiatric disorders have an increased risk of several psychiatric disorders, impaired development, behavioural problems, injuries, physical illness and mortality. Even though this high-risk group has been shown to benefit from health promotion and preventive interventions, estimates of the size of the population at risk are not available. Estimating the number of exposed children using adult survey data will likely generate valuable information for health policy, planning, and advocacy. In this paper, the authors present a method to indirectly estimate the size of this population using secondary data. A Canadian adult health survey and the Census were combined to estimate the prevalence of exposure of children less than 12 years to parental and non-parental psychiatric disorders. A method to combine census and survey data is presented and tested under varying degrees of data availability. Results are compared to the actual number of children exposed to parental psychiatric disorders and discussed. The most accurate estimates were obtained when the most complete survey was combined with relatively detailed census information. Incomplete survey simulations produced substantial underestimates of the prevalence of exposure even when combined with detailed census information.


child psychiatry risk factors survey epidemiology parental psychiatric disorders 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Diego Garcia Bassani
    • 1
  • Cintia Vontobel Padoin
    • 2
  • Scott Veldhuizen
    • 3
  1. 1.Centre for Global Health Research, St. Michael’s HospitalUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  2. 2.The Hincks-Dellcrest CentreGail Appel Institute, Dept. of Psychiatry, University of TorontoTorontoCanada
  3. 3.Centre for Addiction and Mental HealthHealth Systems Research and Consulting UnitTorontoCanada

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