Several studies have reported that children of parents with mental illness have 41–70% chance of developing mental health problems. This has encouraged an increase in preventive interventions directed at these children.
This systematic review aimed to describe preventive psychological interventions addressed to children of parents who are suffering a mental disorder. We identified the aims of these treatments, their approach and components. Sociodemographic characteristics of the subjects and outcomes were examined.
Psycinfo and Pubmed were consulted using the PICO process. We included studies in English or Spanish describing a preventive psychological intervention.
16 studies were included. Most studies were focused on promoting resilience and increasing children's understanding of the parent's disorder. Psychoeducation was included in 87,5% of treatments. Family, multifamily and children group interventions were equally used as approach.
Psychoeducation emerged as an indispensable component of the interventions. Other frequent components comprised skills training, emotional regulation training, and playful activities. Most therapies were carried out in a group setting. Specifically, a multifamily approach is regarded as the most efficient. Most of the studies yielded significant results.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Agha, S. S., Zammit, S., Thapar, A., & Langley, K. (2013). Are parental ADHD problems associated with a more severe clinical presentation and greater family adversity in children with ADHD? European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 22(6), 369–377.
Aldao, A., Gee, D. G., De Los Reyes, A., & Seager, I. (2016). Emotion regulation as a transdiagnostic factor in the development of internalizing and externalizing psychopathology: Current and future directions. Development and psychopathology, 28(4pt1), 927–946.
Aldridge, J., & Becker, S. (2003). Children caring for parents with mental illness: Perspectives of young carers, parents, and professionals. Policy Press.
Beardslee, W. R., & Podorefsky, D. (1988). Resilient adolescents whose parents have serious affective and other psychiatric disorders: The importance of self-understanding and relationships. The American Journal of Psychiatry.
Beardslee, W. R., Wright, E. J., Salt, P., Drezner, K., Gladstone, T. R., Versage, E. M., & Rothberg, P. C. (1997). Examination of children’s responses to two preventive intervention strategies over time. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 36(2), 196–204.
Bell, M. F., Bayliss, D. M., Glauert, R., Harrison, A., & Ohan, J. L. (2019). Children of parents who have been hospitalised with psychiatric disorders are at risk of poor school readiness. Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences, 28(5), 508–520.
Bilsborough, S. (2004). What we want from adult psychiatrists and their colleagues: ‘Telling it like it is’. In M. Göpfert, J. Webster, & MV. Seeman (Eds.), Parental psychiatric disorder: Distressed parents and their families (pp. 3–7). Cambridge University Press.
Breslend, N. L., Parent, J., Forehand, R., Peisch, V., & Compas, B. E. (2019). Children of parents with a history of depression: The impact of a preventive intervention on youth social problems through reductions in internalizing problems. Development and Psychopathology, 31(1), 219–231.
Campbell, T. C., Reupert, A., Sutton, K., Basu, S., Davidson, G., Middeldorp, C. M., ... & Maybery, D. (2020). Prevalence of mental illness among parents of children receiving treatment within child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS): A scoping review. European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 1–16.
Compas, B. E., Champion, J. E., Forehand, R., Cole, D. A., Reeslund, K. L., Fear, J., ... Roberts, L. (2010). Coping and parenting: Mediators of 12-month outcomes of a family group cognitive- behavioral preventive intervention with families of depressed parents. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 78(5), 623–634.
Compas, B. E., Forehand, R., Thigpen, J., Hardcastle, E., Garai, E., McKee, L., ... & Bettis, A. (2015). Efficacy and moderators of a family group cognitive–behavioral preventive intervention for children of parents with depression. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 83(3), 541.
Cooklin, A. (2010). ‘Living upside down’: Being a young carer of a parent with mental illness. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, 16(2), 141–146.
Cooklin, A. (2013). Promoting children’s resilience to parental mental illness: Engaging the child’s thinking. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, 19(3), 229–240.
Cuff, R., & Pietsch, J. (1997). Peer Support for Children of Parents with Mental Illness: Program Design and Evaluation. Mental Health Research Institute.
Dean, K., Stevens, H., Mortensen, P. B., Murray, R. M., Walsh, E., & Pedersen, C. B. (2010). Full spectrum of psychiatric outcomes among offspring with parental history of mental disorder. Archives of General Psychiatry, 67(8), 822–829.
England, M. J., Sim, L. J., & National Research Council. (2009). Associations Between Depression in Parents and Parenting, Child Health, and Child Psychological Functioning. In Depression in Parents, Parenting, and Children: Opportunities to Improve Identification, Treatment, and Prevention. National Academies Press (US).
Finkelstein, N., Rechberger, E., Russell, L. A., VanDeMark, N. R., Noether, C. D., O'Keefe, M., ... & Rael, M. V. (2005). Building resilience in children of mothers who have co-occurring disorders and histories of violence. The Journal of Behavioral Health Services and Research, 32(2), 141–154
Fraser, E., & Pakenham, K. I. (2008). Evaluation of a resilience-based intervention for children of parents with mental illness. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 42(12), 1041–1050.
Goodman, S. H., & Gotlib, I. H. (1999). Risk for psychopathology in the children of depressed mothers: A developmental model for understanding mechanisms of transmission. Psychological Review, 106(3), 458.
Goodyear, M., Cuff, R., Maybery, D., & Reupert, A. (2009). CHAMPS: A peer support program for children of parents with a mental illness. Australian e-Journal for the Advancement of Mental Health, 8(3), 296–304.
Hayman, F. M. (2009). Kids with confidence: A program for adolescents living in families affected by mental illness. Australian Journal of Rural Health, 17(5), 268–272.
Hinden, B. R., Biebel, K., Nicholson, J., & Mehnert, L. (2005). The invisible children’s project. The Journal of Behavioral Health Services and Research, 32(4), 393–408.
Hosman, C. M., van Doesum, K. T., & van Santvoort, F. (2009). Prevention of emotional problems and psychiatric risks in children of parents with a mental illness in the Netherlands: I. The scientific basis to a comprehensive approach. Australian e-Journal for the Advancement of Mental health, 8(3), 250–263.
Kato, N., Yanagawa, T., Fujiwara, T., & Morawska, A. (2015). Prevalence of children’s mental health problems and the effectiveness of population-level family interventions. Journal Epidemiol, 25(8), 507–516.
Kieling, C., Baker-Henningham, H., Belfer, M., et al. (2011). Child and adolescent mental health worldwide: Evidence for action. Lancet, 378(9801), 1515–1525.
Marston, N., Stavnes, K., Van Loon, L. M., Drost, L. M., Maybery, D., Mosek, A., ... & Reupert, A. (2016). A content analysis of Intervention Key Elements and Assessments (IKEA): What's in the black box in the interventions directed to families where a parent has a mental illness?. Child and Youth Services, 37(2), 112-128.
Maybery, D., Reupert, A., Patrick, K., Goodyear, M., & Crase, L. (2009). Prevalence of children whose parents have a mental illness. Psychiatric Bulletin, 33, 22–26.
Maybery, D., & Reupert, A. E. (2018). The number of parents who are patients attending adult psychiatric services. Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 31(4), 358–362.
Mosek, A. (2014). Executive summary. “Apple of My Eye”: Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) and Children of Parents with a Mental Illness (COPM) counseling center for fami- lies coping with parental mental illness. Jerusalem, Israel: The National Insurance Institute, Fund for Development of Services for Children and Youth at Risk—Demonstration projects in Israel.
Nicholson, J., Albert, K., Gershenson, B., Williams, V., & Biebel, K. (2009). Family options for parents with mental illnesses: A developmental, mixed methods pilot study. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 33(2), 106.
Pitman, E., & Matthey, S. (2004). The SMILES program: A group program for children with mentally ill parents or siblings. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 74(3), 383–388.
Rasing, S. P., Creemers, D. H., Janssens, J. M., & Scholte, R. H. (2013). Effectiveness of depression and anxiety prevention in adolescents with high familial risk: Study protocol for a randomized controlled trial. BMC Psychiatry, 13(1), 316.
Reedtz, C., Lauritzen, C., Stover, Y. V., Freili, J. L., & Rognmo, K. (2019). Identification of children of parents with mental illness: A necessity to provide relevant support. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 9, 728.
Reupert, A. E., & Maybery, D. (2010). “Knowledge is power”: Educating children about their parent’s mental illness. Social Work in Health Care, 49(7), 630–646.
Riebschleger, J., Tableman, B., Rudder, D., Onaga, E., & Whalen, P. (2009). Early outcomes of a pilot psychoeducation group intervention for children of a parent with a psychiatric illness. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 33(2), 133.
Robson, J., & Gingell, K. (2012). Improving care for families where children and parents have concurrent mental health problems. Child and Adolescent Mental Health, 17(3), 166–172.
Rosenblum, K. L., Muzik, M., Morelen, D. M., Alfafara, E. A., Miller, N. M., Waddell, R. M., ... & Ribaudo, J. (2017). A community-based randomized controlled trial of Mom Power parenting intervention for mothers with interpersonal trauma histories and their young children. Archives of Women's Mental Health, 20(5), 673-686.
Ruud, T., Maybery, D., Reupert, A., Weimand, B., Foster, K., Grant, A., ... & Ose, S. O. (2019). Adult mental health outpatients who have minor children: Prevalence of parents, referrals of their children, and patient characteristics. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 10, 163.
Sadeh-Sharvit, S., Zubery, E., Mankovski, E., Steiner, E., & Lock, J. D. (2016). Parent-based prevention program for the children of mothers with eating disorders: Feasibility and preliminary outcomes. Eating Disorders, 24(4), 312–325.
Siegenthaler, E., Munder, T., & Egger, M. (2012). Effect of preventive interventions in mentally ill parents on the mental health of the offspring: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 51(1), 8–17.
Solantaus, T., Paavonen, E. J., Toikka, S., & Punamäki, R. L. (2010). Preventive interventions in families with parental depression: Children’s psychosocial symptoms and prosocial behaviour. European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 19(12), 883–892.
Thomason, E., Volling, B. L., Flynn, H. A., McDonough, S. C., Marcus, S. M., Lopez, J. F., & Vazquez, D. M. (2014). Parenting stress and depressive symptoms in postpartum mothers: Bidirectional or unidirectional effects? Infant Behavior and Development, 37(3), 406–415.
Turner, G. (1999). Peer support and young people’s health. Journal of Adolescence, 22, 567–572.
Van Santvoort, F., Hosman, C. M., van Doesum, K. T., & Janssens, J. M. (2014). Effectiveness of preventive support groups for children of mentally ill or addicted parents: A randomized controlled trial. European Child and Adolescent PSYCHIATRY, 23(6), 473–484.
Wolpert, M., Hoffman, J., Martin, A., Fagin, L., & Cooklin, A. (2015). An exploration of the experience of attending the Kidstime programme for children with parents with enduring mental health issues: Parents’ and young people’s views. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 20(3), 406–418.
Conflict of interest
Authors declare that they have no relevant or material financial interests to declare.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Tapias, E., Coromina, M., Grases, N. et al. Psychological Treatments with Children of Parents with Mental Illness: A Systematic Review. Child Youth Care Forum (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10566-021-09608-2
- Parental mental illness
- Mental health
- Psychological intervention