Mental Health Disorders in Parents: The Affects on Children and Youth IntroductionIt has been reported that 21-23 percent of children have or have had atleast one parent with a mental health disorder. These statistics raise concern about the wellbeing of children with parents who possess a server mental illness and the resources not just for the parent, but the child or children affected. Children require numerous amounts of needs from their caregivers and an issue with parents who carry a severe mental health disorder is that the parents are unable to provide necessary needs due to their disorder and symptoms associated. Parents who possess a mental health disorder may unconsciously put their child at risk if proper attention isn’t given to the child’s development. Although these risks can be indirectly and unconsciously such as the social stigma attached to mental health disorders, mental effects on the child, genetic predisposition to mental illnesses themselves and the academic affects on the child’s achievement later in life.
All these factors affect the overall family dynamics and functioning. For children to develop appropriately their home environment needs to be nourished with comfort, understanding, encouragement and curiosity and having a mental illness as a parent sometimes prohibits them from being able to understand their child’s development or how to challenge their child appropriately. Parenting is never an easy job and can be even more difficult for parents with mental health disorders, which brings about the importance of providing necessary programs for children affected. Social effects on the childrenChildren who are brought up in a home with parents who possess mental health disorders are automatically affected in a social aspect.
Research by Reupert and Maybery, 2007 support this thesis by arguing that parents with severe mental health disorders are unaware of the attention and nurturance children need in a social context. Children need to be taught how to appropriately act in society, with their friends, elders, teachers and later in life, co workers. For parents to teach their children about social norms and social rules they must know the social rules and norms themselves, and for parents with mental illnesses, such as Social Anxiety Disorder, parents would be unable to socialize their child and allow for healthy social development(Reupert & Mayberry, 2007). Development in children is more than just their physical development, but socially, mentally and academic development that needs to align with their overall physical development.
Parents who were affected by Fetal Alcohol Syndrome show a great delay in chronological age compared to mental age. Fjone, Ytterhus and Almvik (2009), agree that children who live in these maladaptive environments are socially lacking the abilities to communicate and work with others, which are essential characteristics of human survival. Physical effects on the childrenMowbray and Oyserman, (2003) contend that children with parents who have mental health disorders may develop physical symptoms and affects. Children who grow up in unstable and maladaptive homes develop weak temperaments that are not adaptive to appropriate development (Mowbray & Oyserman, 2003). Our temperament is the genetics of our personality. A weak temperament would be characterised as having poor coping skills, high stress levels and a high genetic predisposition to mental illnesses. Pretis and Dimova (2008) further clarify that coping skills and skills dealing with stress are adequate characteristics individuals must gain continue to develop throughout their lifetime. Children who are not prepared to deal with high levels of stress and unfortunate events with lack the essential skills to develop into adulthood (Pretis & Dimova, 2008).
These disadvantages lead to a high predisposition to mental health disorders that are triggered by the parents themselves and the environment they create for their children. Research by Watson, Manktelow and McColgan (2010) explore the relationship with children and their genetic predisposition to mental health disorders by explain that children who are brought up in stressful and frantic surroundings will have a high predisposition to anxiety disorders and or attention- deficit- hyperactivity disorder. Academic effects on the childrenLonger lasting effects on children with parental mental health disorders are the low academic achievement standards. When a child is born, neurons are firing rapidly in the brain that is stimulated by positive experience, which in turn creates strong and healthy neurons for later development.
This is why early childhood education is extremely important, especially for children who have parents with severe mental health disorders. Research byReupert and Maybery (2007) further support this evidence by explain that if a child isn’t nourished academically and challenged constantly, their brain development will be inaccessible in their adolescent years. These low academic standards can lead to a low socioeconomic status which can affect the child’s chances of creating a healthy relationship with a significant other or creating a family themselves (Reupert & Maybery, 2007). The cycle of poverty will continue to grow if the issues are not addresses at an early age for the child.
The cycle of poverty and risk of substance abuse was argued in Mowbray and Oyserman (2003) research outlining that prevention programs must be initiated early and supported by all the factors in the child’s life. Treatment for children affected by a mental health disorderChildren with parental mental health disorders are affected in numerous ways, socially, mentally and physically, and there are many treatment programs for children to overcome their diversities and family struggles. These treatment programs are created to improve children’s resiliency, which is an individual’s ability to cope with stress and novel situations. Dixon (2004) explored The Super Saturday Program, which is a program designed to help children socialize in healthy atmospheres surrounded by positive non family role models.
An important aspect to The Super Saturday Program is creating mentor- child relationships and understanding the child’s in-depth lives to better assist their resilience training (Dixon, 2004). Through play and focus groups children gain the confidence they would need in creating relationships with other peers and learning the essential life skills and steps from a child to adolescent to young adult (Dixon, 2004). Another approach Pretis and Dimova (2008) propose is the Social Innovative Network which is a specific center for detecting vulnerable children due to the effects of having a parent or close relative with a mental health disorder. The Social Innovative Network is a bio-psycho-social approach that targets the risk of low resilience in the child’s home (Pretis & Dimova, 2008). The Social Innovative Network provides necessary tools and programs for the child and the family and conducts 6 month check- ups. The programs primary ambition is to target every factor in the child’s life and emphasize the importance and meaning of each factor and how they relate to the child’s development and resilience (Pretis & Dimova, 2008). These factors includeparent-child relationships, school performance, peer relationships, temperament, self esteem, health and community based activities (Pretis & Dimova, 2008).
ConclusionThe importance of nurturance, socialization and early childhood education are substantial factors for a child’s healthy development. Although substantial evidence shows that children who have parents with a mental health disorder lack the essential life skills needed to develop to adolescent, it is possible for a child to succeed and live their lives without the stigma attached to mental health disorders. Although children face struggle in their homes, school programs and programs such as The Super Saturday Program and the Social Innovative Network allow children to break free of the stigma attached to families with mental illnesses and succeed in life.