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One-third of children of parents with severe mental illness are at risk of developing severe mental illness
  1. Kim Foster
  1. Faculty of Health, University of Canberra, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Kim Foster, kim.foster{at}

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What is already known on this topic?

Children whose parents have mental illness are known to be at greater risk of developing mental illness than the general population.1 This vulnerability can be mediated by a range of protective factors.2 Moderating risk and preventing intergenerational transmission of mental illness is an important aim for mental health policy and practice.

What does this paper add?

  • This study provides the most current systematic evidence on the level of risk for children developing the same type of mental illness, or other types of mental illness, when their parents have schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or major depression.

  • The results (32% risk of serious mental illness, 55% risk of any mental illness) extend the existing knowledge on this group of children's vulnerability for developing mental illness by adulthood, revealing a level of risk higher than previously identified. This highlights the importance of intervening early for this group, and provides evidence on …

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  • Competing interests None.