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Maternal, Paternal, & Caregiver Mental Health

From birth on, babies look to primary caregivers—parents,  grandparents or other caring adults—to help them learn, develop and thrive. The caregiver role is the first and certainly most vital source of support for a young child reaching developmental and emotional milestones and learning healthy social and coping skills. Mentally healthy children are more likely to have a positive quality of life and are more likely to function well at home, in school, and in their communities.

There is a large body of literature providing evidence that a child’s brain development, emotional and physical wellbeing and mental health depends on forming secure, positive attachments with caregivers. But parenting is not an easy job. How parents manage can be shaped by their own experiences and mental and emotional wellbeing. In view of the potential impact of parental mental or emotional distress on a child’s mental and physical health, prevention and intervention at an early stage of parenting are of great importance not only to the child, but to the entire family.


Recent research confirms poor mental health in mothers (with more research focusing on postnatal depression) is related to poor mental and physical health in children. Increasing research is exploring the father’s impact on children’s mental and physical health, showing it to be no different from that of the mother. See more research on PMI and children outcomes.


Therapy can support parent emotional wellbeing and help them improve self-confidence, manage stress and develop self-care and conflict-resolution skills. Together with the clinician’s help, both at-risk mothers and fathers can form a treatment plan to prevent or minimize the impact of psychiatric illness and other conditions that affect their children’s lives and health.

Part of any treatment plan is:

Direct support for parents’ mental health, including treatment for anxiety and depression. 

Parent education, to provide information about child health and development, including positive parenting tips, information and support. This can include:

      • Concerns about their child’s development
      • Help with their child’s challenging behavior
      • Understanding how adverse childhood experiences can affect their’s and their children’s mental health
      • How to prevent child maltreatment
      • How to support maternal mental health during and after pregnancy

Parental mental health is also a societal issue, related to issues of health equity and societal impacts on emotional health, such as racism and poverty.

Learn more about the Parenthood Center at CFI…


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