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J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 1994 Nov-Dec;33(9):1256-64.

Social dysfunction and psychiatric disorder in mothers and their children.

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Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York State Psychiatric Institute, NY 10032.



The authors examine (1) the reliability and validity of the Adult Personality Functioning Assessment (APFA) as a retrospective measure of baseline social dysfunction in adults; and (2) the association between mothers' APFA scores and psychiatric disorders and functioning in their children.


The subjects (50 mothers and their children) are a subsample of a larger family-genetic study which examined the relationship between panic disorder and major depression in probands and their first-degree relatives.


The APFA demonstrates good interrater reliability for its subscale domains as well as construct validity. Children of psychiatrically ill parents, regardless of disorder, are not all alike in their response to maternal disorder and functioning. The level of impact of mothers' impaired baseline functioning varies according to maternal psychiatric diagnosis. There is less impact of maternal functioning on children of depressed mothers compared to children of anxious mothers. Poor maternal baseline functioning may signal the increased need for treatment for children exposed to chronically dysfunctional parents indicated by the children's increased enrollment in therapy and their rates of suicidality.


Parent and child adaptation appears intertwined, and intervention in one is likely to affect functioning in another. Specifically, intervention in parental social functioning may decrease the risk for disorder and dysfunction in offspring. Clinical and research implications are discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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