Psychological and physical wellbeing in adults who grew up with a mentally ill parent: A systematic mixed-studies review

I.A.M. Brummelhuis, W.J. Kop*, A.C. Videler

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
122 Downloads (Pure)


Genetic vulnerability factors and adverse childhood experiences (ACE) are associated with an increased risk of psychopathology and other adverse health outcomes across the lifespan. However, less is known about how childhood experiences of parental mental illness affect psychological and physical wellbeing in adulthood. This review synthesizes research on the consequences of growing up as a child of a parent with mental illness (COPMI) for adult psychological and physical wellbeing.

A systematic review was conducted following PRISMA guidelines using a mixed-method-studies approach to enable evaluation of the broad array of research designs (Prospero registration #CRD42020221983).

Qualitative studies (k = 10; N = 361) revealed that a COPMI background is associated with substantial psychological challenges in adulthood. Quantitative studies (k = 21; N = 865.402) suggested that COPMI are at increased risk of adult psychopathology, including anxiety and depressive disorders, suicidality, somatoform disorders, substance abuse, but also general medical morbidity and mortality.

Growing up with a mentally ill parent is associated with adverse psychological and physical outcomes in adulthood, but the evidence-base is limited. Longitudinal studies are needed that go beyond establishing genetic and environmental risk factors to further evaluate how a COPMI background influences wellbeing in adulthood and which targeted clinical interventions could be developed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)162-176
JournalGeneral Hospital Psychiatry: Psychiatry, Medicine and Primary Care
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Adult children
  • Adult children of parents with a mental illness
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Parental mental illness
  • Somatic symptom disorder


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