In a retrospective case note study, 36% of 253 consecutive cases seen and treated at a community child and adolescent clinic had at least one caretaker with a concurrent psychiatric disorder. The most common diagnosis in caretakers was depression (20% of the sample). Both, psychiatric disorder in general, and depression in particular, were significantly related to default from treatment. The relevance of these results to all aspects of child health care is discussed. It is concluded that more research into the impact of parental psychiatric disorder on the treatment of children across various clinical settings is needed.