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Does Your Mental Health Affect Your Parenting?

SC CW blogpost Does Your Mental Health Affect Your Parenting This particular subject is a bit touchy. While some experts say yes, others beg to differ. To a certain extent, yes, your mental health does affect your parenting.

Will my child have a mental health condition as well?

Mental health conditions are not contagious, but research shows that some mental health conditions may have a genetic link. Bipolar disorder, for example, has long been shown to run in families. Other people may pass on hereditary traits that make a mental health disorder more likely without passing on a specific disorder. Because you have a mental health condition that does not mean that your child will have a mental health condition. But because of your own experiences, it may help you be better attuned to the psychological challenges that parenting can bring.

Risk Factors

Children whose parents have a mental illness are at risk for developing social, emotional and/or behavioral problems. An inconsistent and unpredictable family environment, often found in families in which a parent has mental illness, contributes to a child’s risk. Other factors that place all children at risk, but particularly increase the vulnerability of children whose parents have a mental illness, include: poverty; occupational or marital difficulties; poor parent-child communication; parent’s co-occurring substance abuse disorder; openly aggressive or hostile behavior by a parent; single-parent families. Families at greatest risk are those in which mental illness, a child with their own difficulties, and chronically stressful family environments are all present. Many of these factors, however, can be reduced through preventive interventions. For example, poor parent-child communication can be improved through skills training, and marital conflict can be reduced through couple’s therapy.

A person suffering from mental illness isn’t a bad parent, but mental illness can complicate how they interact with their children. For example, parents who suffer from Bipolar Disorder may be more likely to overreact, which may lead to inappropriate punishments.

Here are some ways to mitigate the effect of mental illness with regards to parenting:

  1. Monkey See, Monkey Do: Stay calm and be a positive influence to your child; always remember children are watching and consequently reenact everything that we as adults do. If you must get upset or let out your feelings of frustration or pain, do it in a way that your child doesn’t necessarily see.
  2. Learn to be patient. Remember patience is a virtue. If your child is being difficult, cool down, count to 10, and then attempt to attend the situation.

Protective Factors

Increasing a child’s protective factors helps develop his or her resiliency. Resilient children understand that they are not responsible for their parent’s difficulties, and are able to move forward in the face of life’s challenges. It is always important to consider the age and stage of development when supporting children. Protective factors for children include parent’s warm and supportive relationship with his or her children; help and support from immediate and extended family members; a sense of being loved by their parent; positive self-esteem; good coping skills; positive peer relationships; interest in and success at school; healthy engagement with adults outside the home; an ability to articulate their feelings; parents who are functioning well at home, at work, and in their social relationships; and parental employment


Section on Genetics and Birth Defects (Copyright © 2014 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
Written by Christal Whitaker, MA, LMFT, On Mar 25, 2019

Christal utilizes a holistic approach to therapy, offering her clients a safe and open space to help them identify various parts in their lives which are lacking integration… View full profile