How Parents Affect Their Child’s Mental Health

How Parents Affect Their Child’s Mental Health

Mental health is one of the most important components in children’s general mental and physical well-being. It affects how kids feel, think and act. It also affects the way kids handle stress, get along with others and make good choices. However, a lot of children experience family conflict, trauma or abuse, neglect, poverty, and discrimination. All of these problems can have an impact on their mental health.

Every time a child comes across difficult situations (such as psychological turmoil or family quarrels), it has an impact on them in many ways. These type of bad experiences are called Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). Potentially traumatic events for children include abuse, being subjected to domestic violence, or divorce. ACEs have been described in great detail by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The following are the scenarios typically classified as ACEs –

  • Abuse, violence or neglect at home.
  • Having observed abuse in your home or neighborhood
  • Suicide by family members
  • Substance abuse
  • Mental health issues
  • Having divorced or separated parents
  • A family member getting arrested

Furthermore, this causes increased mental health problems in children due to parental pressure. Parental pressure is the emotional strain parents place on their kids, and is frequently associated with:

  • Academic achievements
  • Aptitude for sports or involvement in extracurricular activities
  • Social or cultural norms
  • Appearance
  • Friendships
  • Romantic relationships


According to a 2020 study, the most important source of stress for children’s psychological well-being was family pressure (Hosseinkhani et al., 2021). Wang & Kenny (2014) have found that children raised by parents who shouted at them and even physically humiliated them to add pressure may be more susceptible to bad mental health in adulthood. All these factors together can lead to problems such as depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, or anger issues. How parents guide their children through these difficult times can have a great deal to do with the kids’ mental development and well-being. Children of this age have not yet developed fully mature coping strategies, so it is even more important to create a positive environment in which the child can grow up feeling safe and sound.

The Impact Parents’ Mental Health Has On Children

Parents are the first and most important sources of support for children. They provide protection, love, help and advice. They serve as role models for social behaviour, emotional control, and coping mechanisms. But that’s not to say a few parents wouldn’t have problems of their own. They could suffer from substance abuse, personality disorders, depression, or anxiety. All these concerns may leave them unable to raise their children in a healthy way and have numerous bad effects on the kids.

As revealed in a recent UNICEF study, 1 out of every 14 children between the ages of 0 and 17 had at least one parent who reported having poor mental health. They were also more likely to have experienced other adverse childhood experiences, for example exposure to violence and disruption of family life. These children are often stuck in a vicious cycle since they tend to on average both live in deep poverty (UNICEF, 2021), and grow up with poor general health or mental/emotional health problems that leave them at risk of having their well-being get even worse. In another CDC study, it was found that among children 3-17 years old, depression was the most common co-occurring mental illness. About 75 % of children with depression also had anxiety, and nearly half experienced behavioural problems (CDC, 2023).

Depending on the nature, severity, course, and management of the parents’ mental health, as well as the child’s age, disposition, and resilience, various effects of disorders may be experienced by the child. Here are a few potential outcomes:

  1. More likely to develop conduct disorder, anxiety, or depression
  2. Reduced social, emotional and cognitive development
  3. Low self-worth, confidence, and self esteem
  4. Bad school records and dropping out of school
  5. Challenges in forming and maintaining healthy relationships
  6. More vulnerable to stress, trauma and abuse
  7. Behavioural concerns such as anger, disobedience, impulsivity, or isolation
  8. Suicidal ideation and behaviour 
  9. Substance use and addiction

How Parenting Styles Affect Children’s Mental Health

While mental health disorders in parents can present children with significant challenges, not all parents with mental health disorders are unhelpful or damaging to their kids. As a matter of fact, some parents may draw from their personal experiences in order to relate to their kids and give them the proper guidance and assistance. Parenting style is a major determinant of how parents influence the mental health of their children.

The methods parents utilize to mentor, discipline, and care for their children are collectively referred to as their parenting style. The popular framework by Diana Baumrind divides parenting styles into four categories:

Authoritative: Parents provide a clear and consistent set of rules and expectations while also being kind, accommodating, and supporting. They give their kids constructive criticism and direction while also encouraging them to be self-reliant, accountable, and courteous. They are adaptive and flexible to the requirements and tastes of their kids.

Authoritarian: Parents are distant, stern, and controlling. They demand their kids to follow their rigid, uncompromising norms and expectations without question. They seldom ever express affection or admiration and instead impose discipline using severe and punitive ways. They are unyielding and indifferent to the wants and needs of their kids.

Permissive: Parents are kind, forgiving, and understanding. Their expectations and regulations are either nonexistent or very loose, and their kids are free to do as they like. They steer clear of confrontation and dispute, and they don’t always offer advice or criticism. They give in way too much to their kids’ wants and needs and are extremely protective of them.

Uninvolved: Parents are uncaring, aloof, and negligent. Their commitment and interest in their children’s lives is minimal or nonexistent. They offer very little to no monitoring, assistance, or care. They don’t acknowledge the wants or needs of their kids and are distant.

According to research, parenting styles have a big effect on children’s mental health and well-being. Because authoritative parenting fosters a strong, secure attachment, healthy self-esteem, high levels of competence and low degrees of psychological distress in children, it is commonly associated with the best results for kids. In contrast, children who grow up with authoritarian, permissive, and uninvolved parents are more likely to have negative attachment styles or insecure attachments as well as low self-esteem and a lack of competence. They also tend to show higher levels of psychological distress (INTEGRIS Health, 2019).

Promoting and Protecting Children’s Mental Health

Parents need to care for and protect their children’s mental health. You can accomplish this by:

– Maintaining your own mental health and getting professional assistance when necessary 

– Creating a secure, stable, and encouraging home environment 

– Showing warmth, responsiveness, and being cognizant of your kids’ needs and feelings

– Adopting a firm yet loving approach for children, just like the authoritative parenting style

– Encouraging your kids to voice their thoughts and opinions and showing them respect and empathy when you listen to them

– Supporting your kids in strengthening their resilience, coping mechanisms, and problem-solving techniques 

– Congratulating them on their accomplishments and efforts and encouraging them to grow from their shortcomings

– Assisting your children in reaching their goals and expectations by establishing realistic and fair standards

– Giving your children the chance to learn, play, and socialize with others 

– Keeping an eye on your child’s behaviour, activities, and emotions and acting promptly if you see any warning signs

– Seeking professional help for your children if they exhibit any symptoms of mental health issues, such as persistent sadness, anxiety, anger, or withdrawal.


Parents can affect their children’s mental health in many ways – both positively and negatively. Children’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviours are greatly influenced by two key factors: the parenting style they grow up with, and existing mental health problems in the family. Taking good care of your mental and physical health will help you raise happy children and ensure that the environment is loving and supportive for them to thrive in!


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