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The Relation Between Parental Mental Illness and Adolescent Mental Health: The Role of Family Factors

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Abstract

Children of parents with a mental illness are often found to be at high risk of developing psychological problems themselves. Little is known about the role of family factors in the relation between parental and adolescent mental health. The current study focused on parent–child interaction and family environment. This cross-sectional questionnaire study included 124 families with a mentally ill parent and 127 families without a mentally ill parent who at the time of the study had children aged 11–16 years old. Parents completed questionnaires about their mental health, parent–child interaction (i.e., parental monitoring and parental support), and family environment (i.e., cohesion, expressiveness, and conflict). Adolescents reported their internalizing and externalizing problems. Path analyses were used to examine the direct associations between parental mental illness and adolescent problems as well as the indirect relations via parent–child interaction and family environment. The results showed that interaction between parents with a mental illness and their child was significantly worse compared to parents without a mental illness. The family environment of parents with mental illness was also more negative. Mentally ill parents monitored their adolescents less, which in turn related to more externalizing problems of the adolescents. No factors mediated the relation between parental mental health and adolescent internalizing problems. Moreover, no direct effects of parental support, family cohesion, and family expressiveness with externalizing problems were found. These findings imply that parental monitoring should get a specific focus of attention in existing interventions designed to prevent adolescents with a mentally ill parent from developing problems.

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We would like to thank all families who participated in this study.

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Van Loon, L.M.A., Van de Ven, M.O.M., Van Doesum, K.T.M. et al. The Relation Between Parental Mental Illness and Adolescent Mental Health: The Role of Family Factors. J Child Fam Stud 23, 1201–1214 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-013-9781-7

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