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Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2017 Jul;30(4):312-317. doi: 10.1097/YCO.0000000000000341.

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

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aDepartment of Psychiatry and Psychology, Maastricht University, Maastricht bMindfit, Zwolle cDepartment of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Duivendrecht dDepartment of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.



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.


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.


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.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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