Mental Illness in Children

  • Medical Author:
    Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD

    Dr. Roxanne Dryden-Edwards is an adult, child, and adolescent psychiatrist. She is a former Chair of the Committee on Developmental Disabilities for the American Psychiatric Association, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and Medical Director of the National Center for Children and Families in Bethesda, Maryland.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

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Can mental illness in children be prevented?

Attempts at prevention of childhood mental illness tends to address both specific and nonspecific risk factors, strengthen protective factors, and use an approach that is appropriate for the child's age and developmental level. Such programs often use cognitive behavioral and/or interpersonal approaches, as well as family based prevention strategies because research shows that these interventions tend to be the most helpful.

The inverse of most risk factors, protective factors for childhood mental illness include having the involvement of supportive adults, strong family and peer relationships, healthy coping skills, and emotional regulation. Children and adolescents of a mentally ill parent tend to be more resilient when the child is more able to focus on age-appropriate tasks in their lives and on their relationships, as well as being able to understand their parents' illness. For mentally ill parents, their children seem to be more protected from developing a psychiatric illness when the parent is able to demonstrate a commitment to parenting and to healthy relationships.

What research is being done on mental illness in children?

Due to the historical lack of understanding of this topic, research on mental illness in children is occurring on a number of fronts. In an effort to better understand how often childhood mental illnesses occur, a great deal of research is focused on achieving that goal. Understanding more about the protective factors against mental illness is being explored. Ways to improve the access that children have to treatment is another topic of considerable research interest.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/20/2015

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