Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health

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A period prevalence study of being a parent in a secure psychiatric hospital and a description of the parents, the children and the impact of admission on parent–child contact

Abstract

Background

Most secure psychiatric hospital patients are of childbearing age, but their parental status is minimally researched.

Aim

The aim of the study is to describe the parent patients in one regional secure hospital and explore post‐admission child–parent contact.

Methods

A 9‐year records survey of a complete secure hospital admissions cohort was conducted.

Results

Nearly half of the cohort of 165 patients (46%) were parents. Parent patients were less likely than childless patients to have diagnostic co‐morbidity or to have received childhood mental health care but were more likely to have committed a homicide/life‐threatening index offence with family or friend victims. Men, whether fathers or not, and childless women were unlikely ever to have harmed a child, but it was more likely than not that mother patients had.

Records indicated minimal discussion about childlessness.

Ninety‐four (60%) of the 157 children involved were under 18 years on parental admission. Adult children who had been living with the parent patient before the parent's admission invariably maintained contact with them afterwards, but nearly half (48%) of such under 18‐year‐olds lost all contact. The only characteristic related to such loss was the index offence victim having been a nuclear family member.

Conclusions

As the discrepancy in whether or not parent patients and their children continued contact with each other after the parent's admission seemed to depend mainly on the child's age and his or her resultant freedom to choose, acquisition of accurate data about affected children's perspective on visiting seems essential. Given that parent patients had experienced relative stability in interpersonal relationships and had rarely had childhood disorders, parenting support in conjunction with treatment seems appropriate. Copyright © 2017 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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