Parents of children with psychopathology: psychiatric problems and the association with their child's problems

Christel M Middeldorp, Laura W Wesseldijk, James J Hudziak, Frank C Verhulst, Ramon J L Lindauer, Gwen C Dieleman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

48 Citations (Scopus)


Knowledge is lacking regarding current psychopathology in parents whose children are evaluated in a psychiatric outpatient clinic. This especially accounts for fathers. We provide insight into the prevalence rates of parental psychopathology and the association with their offspring psychopathology by analyzing data on psychiatric problems collected in 701 mothers and 530 fathers of 757 referred children. Prevalence rates of parental psychopathology were based on (sub)clinical scores on the adult self report. Parent-offspring associations were investigated in multivariate analyses taking into account co-morbidity. Around 20 % of the parents had a (sub)clinical score on internalizing problems and around 10 % on attention deficit hyperactivity (ADH) problems. Prevalence rates did not differ between mothers and fathers. Parent-offspring associations did not differ between girls and boys. Maternal anxiety was associated with all offspring problem scores. In addition, maternal ADH problems were associated with offspring ADH problems. Paternal anxiety and ADH problems scores were specifically associated with offspring internalizing and externalizing problem scores, respectively. Associations with offspring psychopathology were of similar magnitude for mothers and fathers and were not influenced by spousal resemblance. Our study shows that both fathers and mothers are at increased risk for psychiatric problems at the time of a child's evaluation and that their problems are equally associated with their offspring problems. The results emphasize the need to screen mothers as well as fathers for psychiatric problems. Specific treatment programs should be developed for these families in especially high need.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)919-927
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean child & adolescent psychiatry
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2016


  • ADHD
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child of Impaired Parents/statistics & numerical data
  • Externalizing symptoms
  • Familial transmission
  • Fathers/statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internalizing symptoms
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders/epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Mothers/statistics & numerical data
  • Netherlands/epidemiology
  • Parental psychopathology

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