Familial influences

Jeremy Turk, Philip Graham and Frank C. Verhulst

in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

Fourth edition

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

Published in print February 2007 | ISBN: 9780199216697
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754333 | DOI:

Series: International Perspectives in Philosophy & Psychiatry

Familial influences

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In most instances a familial upbringing is the pivotal and critical set of experiences in shaping the mental life and mental health of the child and young person. The actual constituents of the family, for example traditional versus alternative, cultural and racial components, and same-sex parenthood, appear to be relatively unimportant compared with components of good parenting. The roles of parents in providing a safe and secure setting in which the child's physical and psychological potentials can be recognized fully over time are many and varied. However, the tasks listed in Table 2.1 are generally recognized as a basic set of roles and responsibilities that parents should be providing for their offspring (Pugh et al. 1994).

There has been much research and much has been written on the topic of what constitutes good parenting and a good family life, and how parents can be supported in undertaking these tasks (Quinton 2004). Conversely, there is much evidence regarding parental issues which jeopardize the psychological welfare of children and risk underachievement in their intellectual, emotional, social and behavioural development. ♦ Maternal depression is a risk factor for later childhood antisocial behaviour problems because of increased maternal negativity and diminished maternal warmth (Caspi et al. 2004). It is also a risk factor for poor childhood attentional skills because of fewer maternal initiations and more terminations of the child's attention to objects (Breznitz and Friedman 1988), and for emotional and behavioural disturbance generally as well as delayed expressive language development (Cox et al. 1987). ♦ Reduction in disposable family income constitutes a child mental health risk through increased economic pressure and negative changes in parental mental health, marital interaction, and parenting quality (Solantus et al. 2004). ♦ Maternal eating disorder predicts childhood feeding problems and non-organic failure to thrive. Important mediators of this relationship comprise mealtime disorganization, maternal control, and marital disharmony (Cooper et al. 2004). ♦ Social and marital difficulties are associated with reduced quality of mother–child interaction (Stein et al. 1991) and childhood antisocial behaviour (Smith and Jenkins 1991). ♦ Parental alcoholism adversely affects the child's emotional and behavioural functioning and cognitive abilities (Kuperman et al. 1999).

However, the most profound adverse psychosocial effects on a child's development arise from child maltreatment, whether deliberate or accidental. Four main types of child maltreatment occur: physical abuse (of which Munchausen syndrome by proxy is a variant), neglect, emotional abuse, and sexual abuse. More than one type of abuse may occur at any one time, and a child who has been subject to one form of abuse is more likely to suffer another either at the same time or in the future.

Chapter.  8926 words. 

Subjects: Psychiatry

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