A parent's or caregiver's mental health disorders can be a risk factor for child maltreatment. Depression, low self-esteem, poor impulse control, anxiety, and antisocial behavior are linked to a heightened potential for child abuse and neglect as these factors can compromise parenting. The following resources provide information on co-occurring mental health issues and child maltreatment.
The Evidence Base: Child Maltreatment Risk Factors
University of Texas at Austin, Child and Family Research Partnership
Reviews risk factors for child maltreatment, including parent mental health. Depression—particularly maternal depression—has been shown to increase the risk for child maltreatment. Antisocial personality traits also strongly predict child maltreatment and are linked to social isolation and substance use.
How Can Understanding Risk and Protective Factors Predict Chronic Neglect for CPS-Involved Families?
Casey Family Programs (2020)
Examines the use of risk assessment tools to predict chronic neglect and shows that parents' cognitive impairment, history of substitute care, and mental health problems, as well as a higher number of allegations in a report, are the strongest predictors. Having younger parents, being in a family with higher numbers of children, and being in a family with a child under age 1 were also predictors of neglect.
Intergenerational Transmission of Child Abuse and Neglect: A Transdisciplinary Analysis (PDF - 376 KB)
Van Wert, Anreiter, Fallon, & Sokolowski (2019)
Gender and the Genome, 3
Examines how parents who experienced childhood maltreatment may be at an increased risk of abusing or neglecting their own children. Mental health status in adulthood is explored as a factor that influences maltreatment perpetration by parents who were abused or neglected as children.
Maternal Mental Health Disorders and Reports to Child Protective Services: A Birth Cohort Study
Hammond, Eastman, Leventhal, & Putnam-Hornstein (2017)
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 14(11)
Investigates the link between maternal mental health disorders documented at their child's birth and the likelihood of child maltreatment reports during infancy. Findings showed the rate of child protective services reports for babies born to mothers with a mental health disorder was higher than the rate for babies born to mothers with no mental health disorder, and when substance use disorder was added as a risk factor, the rate was much higher.
Parent Mental Illness, Addiction, Domestic Violence Tied to Childhood Abuse
Describes a study published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence that found a parent's mental illness, addiction, and domestic violence were related to child maltreatment.
The Role of Parental Depressive Symptoms in Predicting Dysfunctional Discipline Among Parents at High-Risk for Child Maltreatment
Venta, Velez, & Lau (2016)
Journal of Child and Family Studies, 25(10)
Examines relationships between parental depression and dysfunctional forms of discipline in families who were referred for services due to concerns about child maltreatment. Findings showed parental depression was significantly related to dysfunctional discipline but showed that the relationship was likely driven by elevated parental stress.