Risk factors for parental psychopathology: a study in families with children or adolescents with psychopathology

TitleRisk factors for parental psychopathology: a study in families with children or adolescents with psychopathology
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsWesseldijk, LW, Dieleman, GC, van Steensel, FJA, Bartels, M, Hudziak, JJ, Lindauer, RJL, Bögels, SM, Middeldorp, CM
JournalEuropean Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
KeywordsChildhood psychopathology, Family circumstances, Parent-offspring associations, Parental psychopathology, Risk factors

The parents of children with psychopathology are at increased risk for psychiatric symptoms. To investigate which parents are mostly at risk, we assessed in a clinical sample of families with children with psychopathology, whether parental symptom scores can be predicted by offspring psychiatric diagnoses and other child, parent and family characteristics. Parental depressive, anxiety, avoidant personality, attention-deficit/hyperactivity (ADHD), and antisocial personality symptoms were measured with the Adult Self Report in 1805 mothers and 1361 fathers of 1866 children with a psychiatric diagnosis as assessed in a child and adolescent psychiatric outpatient clinic. In a multivariate model, including all parental symptom scores as outcome variables, all offspring psychiatric diagnoses, offspring comorbidity and age, parental age, parental educational attainment, employment, and relationship status were simultaneously tested as predictors. Both 35.7% of mothers and 32.8% of fathers scored (sub)clinical for at least one symptom domain, mainly depressive symptoms, ADHD symptoms or, only in fathers, avoidant personality symptoms. Parental psychiatric symptoms were predicted by unemployment. Parental depressive and ADHD symptoms were further predicted by offspring depression and offspring ADHD, respectively, as well as by not living together with the other parent. Finally, parental avoidant personality symptoms were also predicted by offspring autism spectrum disorders. In families with children referred to child and adolescent psychiatric outpatient clinics, parental symptom scores are associated with adverse circumstances and with similar psychopathology in their offspring. This signifies, without implying causality, that some families are particularly vulnerable, with multiple family members affected and living in adverse circumstances.