Topic 6: Family Violence and Mentally Ill Parents (by 10/24)

There are two readings due this week – Emery and Laumann-Billings (1998) and Seifer (2003).  Address the following two discussion points:  (1) Being exposed to abusive family relationships can obviously have negative consequences.  However, there is an ongoing debate among social/mental health professionals about when it is appropriate to intervene with a family due to family violence/maltreatment.  Based on the reading, share your thoughts about knowing when to keep the family intact and provide social/mental health services or remove the child from the home?   (2) Simply share your thoughts on a few common negative parenting characteristics of mentally ill parents and possible consequences for their children’s social-emotional well-being.  Your original post should be posted by the beginning of class 10/24.  Have your two replies no later than 10/26.  *Please remember to click the “reply” button when posting a reply.  This makes it easier for the reader to follow the blog postings.

31 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Amanda Thomas
    Oct 23, 2013 @ 15:07:01

    Based on the reading it seems more beneficial to keep families intact and get them involved in a therapeutic program to reduce stress and learn new coping skills, when maltreatment is involved versus abuse. When abuse is severe and physical danger, sexual abuse, and neglect is involved this would be more appropriate to remove the child to ensure their safety. Distinguishing the level of abuse is crucial in determining whether or not to remove a child from their home. It would be inappropriate and even harmful to remove a child from their parents as it would be more detrimental than the abuse/maltreatment. I think the pattern, frequency, and type of abuse are essential in this decision making process.

    Parental sensitivity and language are two characteristics that have a significant effects on a child’s social, emotional well being. Parental insight, regarding the needs of their infant, plays a significant role in the child’s later development. Sensitivity refers to parents ability to identify an infants cry and determine their needs. Responding appropriately determines a multitude of consequences that impact child functionality. These consequences include poor attachment, impaired emotional response, cognitive functioning, and resilience. Parental language, specifically maternal language to infants, is another factor that can impede functionality. Mothers typically communicate with their newborns through characteristic pacing and speech intonation. Depressed mothers who do not engage with their child in a developmentally appropriate fashion, put their child at risk for behavior problems and social discord.

    Reply

    • Paige Hartmann
      Oct 24, 2013 @ 10:56:34

      Amanda, you make a valid point about correctly distinguishing the level of abuse before making the decision to keep a child in the home or remove them from the home. I like how you mentioned that removing a child from the home can often be more harmful to the child than the abuse/violence itself.

      Reply

    • Julianna Aguilar
      Oct 24, 2013 @ 18:21:07

      Amanda, you make a good point about not only needing to understand the difference between violence and maltreatment, but also the need to recognize when it would be clearly harmful to remove a child from the home. As a society, we tend to operate under a zero-tolerance policy for child abuse which promotes a “better safe than sorry” attitude when it comes to intervening. That is, we report all abuse, no matter the severity, in in order to protect the best interests of the child. However, as you pointed out, removing the child from the home is not in their best interest in some cases. Therefore, it is important to use well thought-out and appropriate interventions when it comes to child maltreatment instead of simply assuming the worst.

      Reply

    • melissa r
      Oct 24, 2013 @ 19:01:58

      Amanda,
      I liked the comment you made about the importance of distinguishing the frequency and, severity as well of identifying patterns in the negative behavior when deciding whether or not to intervene on a case. Every case is different and those factors are imperative to identify in every family members that shows signs of maltreatment or abuse.

      Reply

    • Anthony Rofino
      Oct 26, 2013 @ 19:54:39

      Amanda, I think you made a great point about language. I did not think about how a mother with a mental disorder of some kind could talk differently to their child. A lack of communication, as you said, is important to make note, but i’m wondering if simple things such as a depressed tone or angry tone from a parent with a drinking problem could affect the growth of a child

      Reply

  2. Kristina Glaude
    Oct 23, 2013 @ 20:38:13

    1) I think that it is important to remember that every family is different and even though abuse in two different homes can look the same both families are not the same. With that said I think review and follow ups to this first review are necessary. This review allows for goals of the family and the services that are being provided to be adjusted accordingly in order for the most optimum situation in the home to occur. Within this evaluation it could be noted that the best thing that could occur for the family is to have the child removed. This is compared to having services where problems in the home are worked on in order to help keep the family intact. Knowing within the family what kind of abuse is occurring, how often, has this increased or stayed the same and what occurred after the abuse was found out. I think that this information is key when reviewing abuse in the home because if the home has had a onetime occurrence of abuse compared to a family who has increased frequency of abuse the response to each family would be different because the situations are different.
    2) Negative parenting characteristics can be seen with parents that have characteristics of mental illness. These negative parenting characteristics can have consequences for their children. An example of a negative parenting characteristic could be that the parent has limited motivation which leads to difficulties with the child/parent relationship as the parent does not interact or enrich developmental stages that the child is progressing through. This lack of interaction between the child and parent can lead to attachment difficulties with the child. Another example of a parenting characteristic is seen when the parents hold strong opinions. The example of the depressed mothers that feel that their child is more vulnerable and this then leads to the child who is less exploratory then other children their age. This impacts the child according to the reading because it allows for the child to perform worse on standardized testing for their age group. This could continue to lead to difficulties for the child if adjustments are not made to help the child. I liked within the reading the chart of 2.1. This chart gave me a visual of the fact that although psychopathology, context and characteristics influence a child and although all these external and internal factors are going on the child can still have positive outcomes that can be reached. This chart allows me to have hope that not everything is going to be negative for the parent or the child. But rather allow for the child to have positive outcomes also.

    Reply

    • Paige Hartmann
      Oct 24, 2013 @ 11:01:56

      Similarly to working with individual clients, when working with families we must be aware that every family and situation is different. This is an important point that you brought up in your post, but I think it is an essential aspect to be aware of as a therapist. Individualizing treatment for a family dealing with potential abuse or violence is necessary.

      Reply

    • Amanda Thomas
      Oct 27, 2013 @ 15:36:33

      Kristina- It is important to keep in mind that every family is different, and circumstances for every family are different as well. I like that you mentioned that although homes can appear to be similar the needs of the family can be very different. Because families may appear to be one way… it is important to follow up regularly.

      Reply

  3. Brandon Pare
    Oct 23, 2013 @ 23:19:15

    1) We have all learned in one facet or another that an abusive environment for a child can be a contributing factor for a various amount of dysfunctional behavior and even mental disabilities. It can be our natural instincts as an outsider to remove children from abusive families. But sometimes this could prove to be counterproductive and even harmful. The article argues the point that despite gaps in research that their needs to be more of a distinction between maltreatment and violence. How one defines minimal abuse and how one defines serious endangerment need to be properly defined. If a child needs to ultimately be removed from a family there must be some consistency as to when and what circumstances this must occur. But ultimately what becomes apparent in the article is that by definition abuse can vary by state and by how the individual perceives abuse. This could either be the members of the family themselves or the therapist/ social worker involved with the case. This makes determining the level of abuse and intervention tricky. The wrong type of intervention could be traumatizing for everyone in the family. The article looks at the causes of family violence, its consequences, and appropriate intervention. In addition to child abuse there is also spouse, elderly, and sibling abuse that should also be taken into consideration.
    2) Children with parents that have mental illness can affect them emotionally and socially. Parents with mental illness can be distant from their children physically and emotionally. This doesn’t allow for the child to receive the support that they require at a young age. This can affect the child’s level of resiliency in handling of stress in the environment. So this can affect them socially, but it also can affect them emotionally. A distant parent can affect the attachments the child can make early on in life. On the other hand let’s consider if the parent’s mental disorder makes them over barring in their relationship with the child. A parent that is over protective could hinder the child’s development socially not allowing them to experience the stress of the environment. This can affect their resiliency which affects their social development. This can also effect the attachments that the child develops with their parents and how to function in their environment. The level’s to which this occurs depends on the intensity, type of disorder the parent has, and the various behaviors the parent presents. A parent that is severely depressed can be emotionally distant from their children but also physically distant by not being active. The children of these parents have the possibility of not feeling connected with their parent, abandoned by them, don’t learn proper emotion regulation, don’t feel supported by the parent, and are more likely of developing low self-esteem and self-efficacy. Also for example let’s consider apparent with extreme anxiety being hyper-vigilant not just for themselves but also for their child. They are constantly nervous about what they are doing, what could happen to them, could project their fears onto their child, and could potentially even push for standards that the child isn’t capable of. This could result in potential irrational fears in the child, the inability to properly emotionally regulate stress in their environment which can affect them socially, promote defiance and resistance causing behavioral issues, and can affect their level of self-efficacy and self-esteem. Both of these scenarios are contributing factors in the development of potential anxiety disorders and mood disorders.

    Reply

    • Kristina Glaude
      Oct 24, 2013 @ 23:03:32

      Brandon~
      I like that you mentioned that there are other types of abuse that need to be reviewed. I think that we should remember that there is more than just the interaction between child and parent that occurs in the home. There are also interactions with other family members. These other family members could help to benefit treatment. With that said reviewing each family’s situation in order to ensure that they have the best treatment to their circumstances.

      Reply

  4. Julianna Aguilar
    Oct 24, 2013 @ 00:12:12

    According to Emery and Laumann-Billings (1998), there should be a careful distinction made between family maltreatment and family violence. The authors describe the former as “minimal physical or sexual harm or endangerment,” and the latter as “serious physical injury, profound psychological trauma, or sexual violation” (p. 121). By making this distinction, mental health professionals and social service agencies can make more well informed decisions about when to consider removing a child from the home and when to offer interventions to the family with the goal of keeping the child in the home. Specifically, children should be removed from the home for acts of family violence, but not for family maltreatment. The authors make an important point about providing families with intervention that includes the promotion of adaptive family functioning that keep families in tact. However, it seems that it would be very difficult to create arbitrary cut-offs for when maltreatment becomes abuse due to the different amount of psychological trauma each individual child experiences. For this reason, there is likely to be skewed reporting of what kind of abuse occurs. Similarly, the authors bring up an important point about needing to address the duties of mental health professionals. It is an explicit part of the job that mental health professionals are to report all abuse, not to decide its severity or attempt to substantiate it. Under this system, however, mental health professionals would be asked to make value judgments (even if arbitrary limits were set) about the severity of abuse and decide whether to report it, therefore leaving more room for error. This idea has important implications for promoting healthier family functioning and freeing up important resources, yet there appear to be a number of issues that seem to be preventing this concept from being operational.

    Mentally ill parents often use maladaptive parenting characteristics that result in a range of negative consequences for their children. For example, when these parents use substances they are likely to engage in insensitive parenting. In turn, lack of parental sensitivity can result in issues for children including school readiness, language expression and comprehension, and inappropriate social behavior. In addition, certain infant characteristics can cause mentally ill parents to engage in negative parenting characteristics that then affect the child. For instance, infant negativity has shown to cause lower maternal involvement with the child for both mentally ill and well mothers, though the effects seem to be exacerbated in mentally ill mothers. This limited maternal involvement can then cause later issues for the children such as behavioral problems. All together, mentally ill parents tend to engage in negative parenting that contributes to numerous negative outcomes in their children.

    Reply

    • Kirsten Chirichetti
      Oct 25, 2013 @ 00:07:17

      Julianna, I really like how you highlighted the role of the mental health professional in making a distinction between family maltreatment and family violence. Counselors and social workers (along with all mandated reporters) are required to make an arbitrary judgment when deciding whether or not to report abuse. In this way, there are no current universal definitions of different degrees of abuse, making it difficult for providers to determine if they should file a 51A or not. In addition, since there is a lack of distinction between degrees of abuse, more financial resources are being utilized by child protective services in order to check-out abuse reports, help families who are in crisis, or take children out of the home. This financial burden makes it challenging for social services to effectively address all the needs of their families. For this reason, in the future it may be beneficial for the mental health profession to develop guidelines or clear definitions on the distinction between family maltreatment/violence and what actions should be taken when families are experiencing certain levels of abuse.

      Reply

  5. Paige Hartmann
    Oct 24, 2013 @ 10:51:14

    Knowing when to keep a family intact or remove the child from the home in the case of family violence/maltreatment relies upon the agreed definition of “family violence” and “maltreatment”. The National Research Council (NRC, 1993) recommends developing consistent definitions of the four areas of maltreatment including sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional maltreatment and physical neglect. According to Emery et al. (1998), being able to distinguish between different levels of abuse will aid in our decision of offering supportive interventions or adversary interventions. However, there is not always such a clear line dividing family violence and maltreatment, as our understanding of violence is based on social judgment. Having a firm understanding of what violence and abuse consist of is essential when working with families with these issues.

    I found it interesting that children with mentally ill parents have evident differences from the first weeks of their life (Seifer & Dickstein, 2000). This supports the fact that when a parent has a mental illness, it affects the whole family structure as well as individual family members. Some common negative parenting skills of mentally ill parents include insensitivity to the child, which results in poor child functioning. Specifically, the article mentions that the connectedness of maternal depression with parental insensitivity results in decreased child cognitive functioning at both 18 months and 5 years old. Another negative parenting characteristic of mentally ill parents involves overt conflict during the parent-child interaction. This has demonstrated to relate to a higher rate of behavioral problems in the child.

    Reply

    • Sara Grzejszczak
      Oct 24, 2013 @ 17:01:36

      Paige, I definitely agree that it is interesting that there are clear differences just from the first few weeks of life. i think that it is understandable that there is such a clear cut differences when you look at the quality and quantity of care the the child is receiving. The article stated that mothers who saw their child as vulnerable had children that did not explore as much and scored lower on standardized development tests. This shows that children are not able to mimic from their parents and take the feed back that they are receiving about what is acceptable and how people are supposed to act and then act based on those assumptions. in order to help children be more resilient there needs to be prevention groups but the topic of mentally ill parents and their family structure is so broad because of how many people are involved and who to really focus on in prevention that there is great difficulty in coming up with one.

      Reply

    • Angela Vizzo
      Oct 24, 2013 @ 18:08:49

      Paige, I like how you mention that the parenting of a mentally ill parent affects the children from the first few weeks of life. This is definatley an attachment issue and shows how if secure attachments are not formed, it can snowball into more problems later on in the child’s development and the different adversive consequences that has on the child.

      Reply

    • Brandon Pare
      Oct 26, 2013 @ 11:06:04

      Paige,
      I agree with you that there needs to become a more universal standard for defining what is abuse versus maltreatment. This is such a struggle considering that many families, states, agency, therapists, etc, view abuse differently. Being that it could be so subject makes these standards hard to define.

      Reply

    • Amanda Thomas
      Oct 27, 2013 @ 15:44:09

      Paige- you mentioned in your post, that children with mentally ill parents have evident differences from the first weeks of their life (Seifer & Dickstein, 2000). I wasn’t surprised when I read that, but something about it got me wondering. Dysfunction on a whole has a tremendous impact on family structure and especially individual child functioning. Resilience really is powerful.

      Reply

  6. Emily B
    Oct 24, 2013 @ 13:57:14

    It is important to remember that abuse can present itself in may different ways and that families can react to abuse in different ways as well. Setting up clear guidelines to distinguish between maltreatment and abuse is important. Based on my experience working with families with DCF involvement, there seems to be a grey area between being able to add more services in or to remove the child from the home. I have heard several times since I started working in the human service field “There isn’t enough to file (a 51-A) but services should not end. Allowing families to get services needed to repair family relationships, and learn positive parenting skills. Setting clearer rules to assist DCF workers in distinguishing when a child needs to be taken from the home.

    Common negative parenting characteristics of a mentally ill parent are the inability for a mother to develop an attachment to their children at the time of their birth. This can cause poor cognitive functioning in children and the possible development of their own psychological disorder. I provide therapeutic mentoring services for children who have RAD. The clinician I work with believes that their inability to form positive attachments to their parents or adoptive parents is because of the trauma that they have been subjected to during their early development. Children with these poor attachments are also challenged in different parts of their lives, including socially and emotionally.

    Reply

    • Melissa Recore
      Oct 24, 2013 @ 16:24:12

      Emily,
      Great point about how parents who are mentally ill may not be able to develop a secure attachment with their children which may result in their child developing RAD. The children in these situations do not develop any feelings of safety, trust, or that their needs will be met. This kind of neglect from a young age makes functioning as an adult very difficult.

      Reply

  7. Melissa Recore
    Oct 24, 2013 @ 16:21:32

    The debate over when to attempt to pull the child out of the home because of family violence or neglect is an on going, case by case problem. Obviously there are some family problems which if present should involve the child being removed from the home, but most situations have to be looked at on a family direct level. If the family beats the child, brakes bones, sends the child to the hospital then it is a clear cut and dry case to remove the child. But what about parents that use spanking for discipline purposes. Parents who state they have to physically manage their children to keep them safe because the child is unable to physical manage themselves when upset. The reasons to be concerned for these families are very high, but when and what is the line to remove the child from the home. I personally enjoy the fact that I work with children who are out of the home for this exact reason. I think this call if very difficult and can be detrimental or instrumental for the child’s overall well being and functioning. Some children would be able to function better in the home with their family that uses spanking for punishment then to leave the family and go into foster care. We as clinicians are responsible for doing no harm to our patients, as we are also mandated reported and spanking is technically against the law. In addition lets throw cultural factors into the mix. This questions is hard because family systems are hard and must always be navigated with extreme caution. With that said, if there was physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect (not having basic needs met) then it would require interventions to occur.
    Negative parenting characteristics include not forming attachments with their children, not meeting the child’s basic needs, poor modeling (especially of the parents own mental disorder), no structure/ consistency, over telling details to their children things that their child is not mentally prepared to understand or deal with.

    Reply

    • Angela Vizzo
      Oct 24, 2013 @ 18:05:39

      Melissa, I really like your discussion of when to remove children from abusive situations. You bring up a lot of valid points, including how culture plays a role and how difficult a situation the mental health practioner is put in. I also like your emphasis on how each case is unique.

      Reply

    • Kirsten Chirichetti
      Oct 24, 2013 @ 23:49:21

      Melissa, I really like how you mentioned the negative parenting characteristics of a parent not being able to meet his or her child’s basic needs and a lack of structure/consistency in the home. Although the reading mentions that parents with mental illness have difficulties with emotion regulation, distorted cognitions, and less involved interaction patterns, it did not specifically highlight the importance of meeting a child’s basic needs through food, shelter, and a safe environment. Without these critical life components, optimal child development and functioning will not me reached and these children will experience significant negative outcomes. These negative outcomes include malnutrition, illness, injury, and in extreme cases possibly death. Many young children also thrive with consistent structure and routines in their lives, knowing what to expect in any given day. To some degree this reliability in routine acts as a safety net, giving children something to fall back on when their family is in crisis. However, when consistency and structure are limited, children are more apt to feel unsafe, leading to distress and possibly further dysfunction.

      Reply

  8. Anthony Rofino
    Oct 24, 2013 @ 16:23:21

    When looking at whether to keep a family together or not, it is very important to determine the difference between violence and maltreatment. Many people have the misconception that that there is no difference, but the key is to try to leave families intact as much as possible. Even when an organization like DCF gets involved, the key is to keep families together as much as possible and keep the kids safe. Working out the various family issues through therapy may be the appropriate response to such violence, but first, the therapist must determine if they are fixable problems or require further service.

    The second article really opens one’s eyes to the effects that mental illness can have on the entire family, not just the person suffering from the illness. One in particular is the effect of maternal depression and parental insensitivity. These children are at a greater risk of decreased cognitive functioning. This highlights the importance that parents control their depression through therapy or medication to not negativiely impact their child. Secondly, a parent who engages in substance abuse could become neglectful, resulting in poor attachments with their children. For anyone who has taken developmental psychology, poor attachment is a very high predictor of maladaptive behaviors through development.

    Reply

    • Sara Grzejszczak
      Oct 24, 2013 @ 16:51:34

      Anthony, I like how you pointed out that there is a difference between violence and maltreatment. Many times the two are looked at as being the same thing but there are not, some times parents who are maltreating their children do not have the means to get necessary things for them, such as food and clothing, these types of families do need to be kept in tact and given services to help them. Violence on the other hand is more severe and causes physical harm to the children, the other parent of the children, or psychological harm to the children. Violence does need to have some type of service intervene more quickly and even though the family should try to stay in tact I think it is more important to get the child or children to safety first and then worry about therapy before anymore harm can be done and then reunite the family together once certain steps are taken my by the abuser.

      Reply

  9. Sara Grzejszczak
    Oct 24, 2013 @ 16:46:38

    Children want to be with their parents and some even feel like they deserved to be hit because they think they did something wrong, but parents should not hit their children by any means and each case should be taken seriously. A family should try to be kept intact as long as they are all trying in therapy to make changes or at least participate in the services that are being provided to them. If the family does not take therapy seriously when they are mandated to go then there should be serious consideration about removing the children from the home until the parents are able to take the necessary steps to provide better living arrangements. This is also for when parents are using illegal substances or are alcoholics and do not go to rehab to get the help that they need. For families that are cases that are not as severe and are not mandated to receive services a file should still be kept for a certain length of time so that way they also can have a record to see if the violence in the home increases and if so if they need to receive mandated services. I do feel though that there are times (at least in Connecticut) where parents are given too many chances and then something serious happens to the children and then everyone says that something should have happened sooner and the kids should have been removed from the home.

    Some negative parenting characteristics of mentally ill parents include a difference in maternal sensitivity, depressed mothers do not adjust their speech towards their children, and when mothers have consistent depression during the first years of the child’s life the child is more apt to have hostile behavior. Each of these characteristics has a consequence for the child social-emotional well-being. When a parent is not as sensitive to their child’s needs the child has a more of a chance of having behavior problems, they are not as ready for school, their expressive language is lower, and there is lower verbal comprehension. Mothers who were depressed and perceive their children as vulnerable have children who do not explore as much as other children their age without depressed mothers. These children also perform worse on standardized development tests at one year of age. Since these children do not explore the world around them and do not do as well on standardized development tests the trend could continue as they get older and will continue to have developmental delays and not try new things that their peers are doing because they were never given the okay from their mother. All-in-all children who have parents that are mentally ill will have differences than children who have parents with no mental illness and just as the article stated there need to be some type of prevention group started that would be able to help those children become resilient to their parents disability.

    Reply

    • Anthony Rofino
      Oct 26, 2013 @ 19:56:48

      Sara, I like that you brought up the point that some children, eventually, feel that they deserve to be mistreated due to their actions. This seems to be very damaging for a child’s psyche and I was intrigued to think of the posibilities where a child believes abuse is “normal behavior” or that it is deserved. The thought of what this child would develop into truly saddens me and shows the importance of education of youth about the difference between being reprimanded appropriately or abused

      Reply

  10. Angela Vizzo
    Oct 24, 2013 @ 18:01:24

    Knowing when intervention is necessary for families facing violent or abusive situations is a complex issue. Research shows that if the child is in a home where there is chronic and/or serious abuse, interventions are unlikely to work and the child should be removed from the home. However, if the abuse or violence is caught early enough often times the family can remain intact as long as they follow-through with an intervention program. However, the lines of where the abuse falls on the spectrum are not always clear. Another tricky situations is emotional or verbal abuse rather than physical abuse which can be harder to catch by professionals and even harder to gauge how bad that abusive situation really is. The article also mentions that mental health professionals who are actively working with families feel reporting minor abusive situations can undermine the therapeutic relationship, not to mention these families are also seeking aid on their own accord.

    There are a variety of negative parenting characteristics associated with mentally ill parents, and each disorder poses its own risks. A variety of mental illnesses, including depression, show those suffering can display insensitive parenting, and trouble recognizing children’s emotions. This is especially detrimental during the infancy and toddler years as children with these parents often develop insecure attachments and have trouble with emotion regulation. There is also less interaction from the parent to allow scaffolding, where parent aids the child in development and as a result some of these children are delayed developmentally, which becomes evident at the preschool age as the children show less school readiness, poor language skills and incompetent social behavior. If the parent’s illness is not treated later outcomes of the children indicate behavioral problems. In addition, mentally ill parents can have unrealistic expectations of where their child is developmentally which can lead to them having negative feeling about their child, and in response the child-parent relationship suffers.

    Reply

    • Kristina Glaude
      Oct 24, 2013 @ 22:47:13

      Angela~
      I liked how you brought up the point about emotional and verbal abuse. Like you stated I do that that it is harder for other individuals to know that that situation is occurring in the home. I do think though that as the child grows up and has more knowledge of what is occurring in other people’s homes. That they will then speak up and increase the likelihood that they will then tell someone that will help them with the situation.

      Reply

    • Brandon Pare
      Oct 26, 2013 @ 11:16:40

      Angela,
      I enjoyed how you mentioned that can children with mentally ill parents can not only develop social and emotional issues but they can also be cognitively underdeveloped as well. Poor success in school can become reinforcing to the emotional and social beliefs they have about themselves. This can continue to promote their dysfunctional behavior.

      Reply

  11. Kirsten Chirichetti
    Oct 24, 2013 @ 18:21:49

    According to the reading by Emery & Laumann-Billings (1998), it is critical that mental health professionals make the difficult distinction between levels of abuse for the purposes for intervention. One of the major distinctions that professionals have focused on in regards to levels of abuse includes the difference between family maltreatment and family violence. Family maltreatment is associated with minimal or moderate physical or sexual harm or endangerment, while family violence is characterized by profound psychological trauma, sexual violation, or serious physical injury (Emery & Laumann-Billings, 1998). By using this differentiation, counselors and mental health professionals can make appropriate decisions about what interventions should be put in place for the family. Emery & Laumann-Billings (1998) specifically propose that supportive interventions should be utilized with families experiencing family maltreatment. Although undesirable, aggression to a certain degree is normal in the family. For this reason, it is important that counselors support these families, helping them learn to control normal anger and aggressive impulses toward family members and providing them with support to cope better with the stresses of the family life. In addition, many families who are experiencing family maltreatment are under a great deal of stress (low self-esteem, rough neighborhoods, loss of job/family members, etc.) and thus they are more likely to benefit from interventions designed to support them through the challenges of parenting than from interventions that label them as ‘abusive’ and use coercive acts. Nonetheless, Emery & Laumann-Billings (1998) argue that when families experience severe to extreme violence and the long-term physical health and safety of the children are endangered, than coercive interventions are necessary. These coercive interventions may include children’s placement into foster care, termination of parental rights, and adoption. However, it is important to note that interventions with abusive families can have tremendously adverse practical consequences for children and parents including uncertainties about residence, loss social support, threats regarding custody, financial hardships, and the emotional upheaval for children placed in foster-care and their parents (Emery & Laumann-Billings, 1998). For this reason, the authors suggest that social service providers must consider all the options and alternatives available to the family, using supportive rather than adversarial interventions except in cases of serious abuse. The decision regarding what is “serious abuse” however is arbitrary and subjective to one’s opinions, which can lead to error or negative consequences for the family. Thus it is critical that in the future, mental health professionals work together toward a more unified, collective distinction between family maltreatment and violence in order to support families with the most effective interventions.

    Seifer (2003) identifies several common negative parenting characteristics of mentally ill parents and how these traits may result in maladaptive consequences for their children. Mothers who are diagnosed with a mental illness have less parenting sensitivity or responsiveness to their child’s signals. In a study conducted by Hipwell and colleagues (2000), maternal depression was associated with lower maternal sensitivity and more insecure infant attachment (as cited in Seifer, 2003). In addition, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICDH) study also found a link between maternal depressive symptoms predicting maternal sensitivity. Low levels of maternal sensitivity found in mothers with mental illness were associated with several child outcomes in the preschool period including school readiness, expressive language, verbal comprehension, competent social behavior, and behavior problems. Moreover, other common negative parenting characteristics of mentally ill parents include affective dysregulation, distorted cognitions (with particular interest in cognitions about the child), and less involved and supportive interaction patterns. In regards to parent emotion processing, mothers who experience negative emotions associated with depression during the first years of parenthood are more apt to have children who engage in hostile behavior in school and at home (Seifer, 2003). Furthermore, distorted cognitions are often a component of psychopathology in parents. In a study by Field et al., (1996), depressed mothers who perceived their children to be vulnerable, ended up having children who were less exploratory and perform worse on standardized developmental tests at age 1 (as cited in Seifer, 2003). Additionally, mothers diagnosed with depression whom have lower perceived self-efficacy levels also have lower behavioral competence with their children, leading them to engage in more controlling styles when interacting with their children. Overall, there are many risks to children when parents have mental illness and therefore it is important that interventions are put in place to help this population.

    Reply

    • Julianna Aguilar
      Oct 24, 2013 @ 18:48:19

      Kirsten, you bring up an important point regarding the effects of stress on family functioning. When children are abused or maltreated, it is easy to assume that parents are incompetent, unloving, or lazy, among other negative characteristics, and that they cannot be helped. However, many of these parents are loving and desire to change in order to care for their family, but lack the appropriate resources to do so. Therefore, interventions centered on helping alleviate stress and teaching parenting skills would benefits not only the parents, but the children and the entire family.

      Reply

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Adam M. Volungis, PhD, LMHC

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