Background: Parental and child psychiatric disorders have been found to be associated, and this association can be mediated by other psychosocial variables, including parenting attitudes and strategies. As most previous studies included clinical samples, the purpose of this study was to establish the relationship between parental psychopathology and parenting strategies with child psychiatric disorders in a national survey population.
Methods: The sample included 10,438 children of 5-15 years and their parents, from representative UK households. Families were assessed on child psychiatric diagnosis, parental psychopathology, family functioning, and socioeconomic status. Parenting strategies included using rewards, physical and non-physical punishments towards their child.
Findings: Parental psychopathology scores (OR 3.99, 95% CI 3.13-5.09) and non-physical punishment (OR 1.50, 95% CI 1.27-1.76) were associated with child psychiatric disorders. This association was particularly prominent among children with conduct disorders: parental psychopathology scores (OR 3.13, 95% CI 2.28-4.30) and non-physical punishment (OR 3.19, 95% CI 2.55-3.97). Absence of child psychopathology was associated with a combination of rewarding and non-punitive parenting strategies.
Conclusions: Although parents in the general population may be using less physical strategies than in the past, non-physical punishment is strongly related to mental health problems in children. Enhancement of positive parenting through universal and targeted interventions is an important preventive strategy.