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World Psychiatry. 2011 Jun;10(2):93-102.

WPA guidance on the protection and promotion of mental health in children of persons with severe mental disorders.


This guidance details the needs of children, and the qualities of parenting that meet those needs. Parental mental disorders can damage the foetus during pregnancy through the action of drugs, prescribed or abused. Pregnancy and the puerperium can exacerbate or initiate mental illness in susceptible women. After their birth, the children may suffer from the social disadvantage associated with severe mental illness. The parents (depending on the disorder, its severity and its persistence) may have intermittent or prolonged difficulties with parenting, which may sometimes result in childhood psychological disturbance or child maltreatment. This guidance considers ways of preventing, minimizing and remedying these effects. Our recommendations include: education of psychiatrists and related professions about the effect of parental mental illness on children; revision of psychiatric training to increase awareness of patients as caregivers, and to incorporate relevant assessment and intervention into their treatment and rehabilitation; the optimum use of pharmacological treatment during pregnancy; pre-birth planning when women with severe mental illness become pregnant; development of specialist services for pregnant and puerperal women, with assessment of their efficacy; community support for parenting by mothers and fathers with severe mental disorders; standards of good practice for the management of child maltreatment when parents suffer from mental illness; the importance of multi-disciplinary teamwork when helping these families, supporting their children and ensuring child protection; the development of child and adolescent mental health services worldwide.


Parenting; child and adolescent mental health services; child maltreatment; childhood mental disorders; mother-infant relationship; severe mental illness; substance abuse

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