How Parents Impact Their Child’s Mental Health

Portrait of happy young multi ethnic kids lying on grass and having fun

Portrait of happy young multi ethnic kids lying on grass and having fun

Hannah Stai, News Editor

In today’s climate, with political uncertainty, a global pandemic, and school closures, it seems the universe has made it difficult for anyone to hold it together. And to add to the stress, many of our parents have the added stress of worrying about how we as children are affected.


Statistically speaking, children of parents with anxiety disorders are four to six times more likely to develop an anxiety disorder in their lifetime, and children of parents with depression are three to four times more likely to develop depression. 


Whether or not why a child might develop a mental disorder relies on a combination of genetics, biology, and environment; but it should be noted a child’s behavior can impact their parent. And the parent’s behavior can later impact their child even further. 


Marcy Bustein, a clinical psychologist and employee of the National Institute of Mental Health, is quoted saying: “The relationship between parent and child is bidirectional and complex.” 


That being said, Burstein wants parents to know that nobody is to blame on where and how mental illness begins. And although the blame cannot only be placed on parents for a child’s mental wellbeing, it isn’t safe to say they have no influence over their child.

In a safe conclusion, life is painful and uncomfortable at some point for all of us, and how it affects us depends on how we react. A difficult yet brave action for parents to take is to acknowledge struggles in front of their children and model a healthy response to them. Naturally, “children look to parents to understand their reality and to understand the world,” Eli Lebowitz, director of the Yale Child Study Center’s Program for Anxiety Disorders.


If children watch how their parents respond to negative or painful experiences, they will likely carry on that response with themselves in the future if they are faced with the same problem. 


Many child psychologists around the world have proven that children are heavily influenced by their parents, and how potentially good or bad their childhood was, determines how they are in their adulthood.