Community Mental Health Journal

, Volume 54, Issue 6, pp 884–897 | Cite as

Prevalence of Mental Disorders Among Children and Adolescents of Parents with Self-Reported Mental Health Problems

  • Sarah E. JohnsonEmail author
  • David Lawrence
  • Francisco Perales
  • Janeen Baxter
  • Stephen R. Zubrick
Original Paper


This paper provides Australian population-level estimates of the prevalence of parental self-reported lifetime mental disorders and past 12 month mental disorders in their children. It leverages unique data from the 2013–2014 Australian Child and Adolescent Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing (Young Minds Matter) (n = 6310). Mental disorders were assessed in 4–17 year-olds using the Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children Version IV. Primary carer (PC) and secondary carer mental health was based on PC-reported lifetime diagnoses. Over one-third of 4–17 year-olds had a PC with a lifetime diagnosis. The prevalence of all disorders was significantly higher amongst these children than children whose PC reported no diagnoses, and highest when the PC had comorbid and more severe disorders. Assessing mental health needs at a family level is important to identify children who are particularly vulnerable to developing mental disorders, to develop targeted interventions, and to understand the intergenerational transmission of risk.


Parental mental health Child and adolescent mental health Mental disorders Intergenerational risk Children and families 



The authors would like to thank the 6,310 families who gave their time to participate in the survey, Rajni Walia, Gerry Bardsley, the team at Roy Morgan Research, and the Survey Reference Group for their input into the design and conduct of the survey. The authors would also like to thank Margaret Cook for her dedication to the issue of improving the lives and opportunities of children whose parents have serious mental health problems, and for her input and guidance in producing this paper.


This research was supported by the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Children and Families over the Life Course (project number CE140100027). The views expressed herein are those of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Australian Research Council. This study uses data from Young Minds Matter which was funded by the Australian Government Department of Health.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflict of interest to report and certify responsibility for the manuscript.

Ethical Approval

The research protocol for Young Minds Matter was approved by two institutional review boards ‒ the Australian Government Department of Health Human Research Ethics Committee (Project 17/2012), and The University of Western Australia Human Research Ethics Committee (Project RA/4/1/5538). All research has been undertaken in accordance with Australia’s National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sarah E. Johnson
    • 1
    Email author
  • David Lawrence
    • 2
  • Francisco Perales
    • 3
  • Janeen Baxter
    • 3
  • Stephen R. Zubrick
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.ARC Centre of Excellence for Children and Families over the Life Course, Telethon Kids InstituteThe University of Western AustraliaSubiacoAustralia
  2. 2.Graduate School of EducationThe University of Western AustraliaPerthAustralia
  3. 3.ARC Centre of Excellence for Children and Families over the Life Course, Institute for Social Science ResearchThe University of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia

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