The relationship between parental psychiatric disorder and child physical and sexual abuse: findings from the Ontario Health Supplement

Child Abuse Negl. 2002 Jan;26(1):11-22. doi: 10.1016/s0145-2134(01)00308-8.


Objective: The study's goal was to examine the relationship between a history of parental psychiatric disorder and a history of child abuse in a general population sample of Ontario residents.

Method: A representative community sample of 8548 respondents who participated in the Ontario Mental Health Supplement (OHSUP) were interviewed about parental psychiatric history and completed a self-report measure of childhood physical and sexual abuse.

Results: The lifetime prevalence of either parent with a psychiatric disorder was as follows: 14.1% for depression, 3.7% for manic depression, 2.4% for schizophrenia, 2.4% for antisocial behavior, and 17.3% for any parental psychiatric disorder. Respondents reporting a parental history of depression, mania, or schizophrenia had a two to threefold increase in the rates of physical, sexual, or any abuse. Parental history of antisocial disorder increased the risk of exposure to physical abuse (adjusted odds ratios [OR 6.1] and any abuse [OR 7.5]). There was no statistically significant difference between parental psychiatric disorder and childhood physical or sexual abuse by gender of the respondent. There was a trend for increasing risk associated with father only, mother only, and both parents having any psychiatric disorder.

Conclusions: The elevated risk for physical and sexual abuse among respondents reporting a parental history of psychiatric illness highlights the need to examine the mechanism for this association. Such information is important in developing approaches to assist families where the risk of child maltreatment is increased.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Abuse / psychology
  • Child Abuse / statistics & numerical data*
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / psychology
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / statistics & numerical data
  • Child of Impaired Parents / psychology*
  • Child of Impaired Parents / statistics & numerical data
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Family Health
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / complications
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Ontario / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Distribution
  • Surveys and Questionnaires