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J Clin Psychiatry. 2015 Aug;76(8):e1006-14. doi: 10.4088/JCP.13m08931.

Serious mental illness and disrupted caregiving for children: a nationwide, register-based cohort study.

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Copenhagen University Hospital, Mental Health Centre Copenhagen, Mental Health Services, Capital Region of Denmark, Copenhagen.



To study how often severe psychiatric disorders adversely affect a person's ability to be a parent, indicated by the child being placed in out-of-home care.


This study was conducted in 2013 as a prospective, register-based cohort study covering all first-born singletons in the entire Danish population born after 1982 (N = 782,092) and their parents. Rates of out-of-home placement of children with parents diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or unipolar depression, according to the criteria of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, 8th revision (ICD-8) and ICD, 10th revision (ICD-10), were analyzed. The rates were compared with those of children with parents from the general population.


A parental diagnosis of schizophrenia was the most prominent risk factor for children placed outside the home, with an accumulated risk for being placed in care at some point during childhood-40% for children with mothers with schizophrenia and 20% for children with fathers with schizophrenia. Children of mothers (incidence rate ratio [IRR] = 23.75; 95% CI, 20.94-26.93) and fathers (IRR = 7.85; 95% CI, 6.67-9.25) with a diagnosis of schizophrenia had the overall highest IRRs of placement in care. Having a mother with bipolar disorder was the second most prominent risk factor (IRR = 5.76; 95% CI, 4.50-7.36), followed by a maternal diagnosis of unipolar depression (IRR = 4.28; 95% CI, 3.73-4.90). Risks were especially high during the child's first year of life, indicating a critical period, especially for children with mothers with schizophrenia (IRR = 80.19; 95% CI, 68.09-94.43). Risks varied greatly with parents' socioeconomic factors in all diagnostic groups.


Parental schizophrenia is a strong risk factor for placement of children in out-of-home care.

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