Prevalence of psychopathology in children of parents with mental illness and/or addiction: an up to date narrative review

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Abstract

Purpose of review

Children of parents with a mental illness and/or addiction are at high risk for developing a mental illness themselves. Parental mental illness is highly prevalent leading to a serious number of children at high risk. The aim of this review is to give an up-to-date overview of psychopathology in children of parents with various mental illnesses and/or addiction, based on recent literature.

Recent findings

Worldwide, 15–23% of children live with a parent with a mental illness. These children have up to 50% chance of developing a mental illness. Parental anxiety disorder sets children at a more specific risk for developing anxiety disorder themselves, where children of parents with other mental illnesses are at high risk of a large variety of mental illnesses. Although preventive interventions in children of mentally ill parents may decrease the risk of problem development by 40%; currently, these children are not automatically identified and offered help.

Summary

This knowledge should encourage mental health services to address the needs of these children which requires strong collaboration between Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services and Adult Mental Health Services. Directions for further research would be to include both parents, allow for comorbidity and to look deeper into a broader variety of mental illnesses such as autism and personality disorder other than borderline.

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