Effects of Family Structure on Mental Health of Children: A Preliminary Study.

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Journal Title

Indian J Psychol Med

MeSH Headings

Family structure; hospitalization rates; single parents; trauma


BACKGROUND: To find any association between family structure and rates of hospitalization as an indicator for behavior problems in children.

METHODS: Retrospective chart review of 154 patients who were admitted to the preadolescent unit at Lincoln Prairie Behavioral Health Center between July and December 2012.

RESULTS: We found that only 11% of children came from intact families living with biological parents while 89% had some kind of disruption in their family structure. Two-third of the children in the study population had been exposed to trauma with physical abuse seen in 36% of cases. Seventy-one percent had reported either a parent or a sibling with a psychiatric disorder. Children coming from biologically family were less likely to have been exposed to trauma. Children coming from single/divorced families were less likely to have been exposed to sexual abuse but more likely to have a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) compared to other types of families. Strong association was found between exposure to trauma and certain diagnoses in respect to hospitalization. ADHD predicted a 4 times likelihood of having more than one previous hospitalization, with mood disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, and physical abuse increasing the risk by more than twice.

CONCLUSIONS: Significant differences in family structure were demonstrated in our study of children being admitted to inpatient psychiatric hospitalization. The presence of trauma and family psychiatric history predicted higher rates of readmission. Our study highlighted the role of psychosocial factors, namely, family structure and its adverse effects on the mental well-being of children.



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