Living in poverty for long stretches of time can intensify mental health issues in the family, a new study from Heriot-Watt University finds.
Published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, The Indivisibility of Parental and Child Mental Health and Why Poverty Matters study identifies the wellbeing of parents and children as being deeply interconnected, changing over time.
At younger ages, parents experiencing poorer mental health tend to have a negative impact on their children's conduct, while behaviour problems of a child appear to adversely affect their parents' mental health. Researchers found that as children grow older, their emotional symptoms tend to affect parental mental health.
We provide strong evidence of an interdependent relationship between parents’ and children’s mental health over time.
Above all, the study highlights that poverty has the greatest adverse effect, intensifying mental health problems for both parents and children.
Lead author, Professor Morag Treanor from the Institute for Social Policy, Housing, Equalities Research (I-SPHERE) at Heriot-Watt University, explains: “Our study shows that interventions attempting to improve children’s mental health not only need to address the wellbeing of parents simultaneously, but also tackle the profound negative effects of living in poverty, or else they will have limited success.”
The study proposes a strong argument for a comprehensive strategy for enhancing the mental health and wellbeing of families, with an emphasis on reducing poverty.
Co-author, Dr Patricio Troncoso concludes: "We provide strong evidence of an interdependent relationship between parents’ and children’s mental health over time, which means that fostering the wellbeing of children and parents go hand-in-hand.”
The study looks at the interdependence of parental mental health and children’s emotional and conduct problems, along with the adverse effects of longitudinal poverty. Using the nationally representative birth cohort study Growing up in Scotland, key findings from the study indicate the influence, on each other and over time, of parental mental health and children’s emotional and conduct problems.