Open Access Open Badges Research article

Implementing new routines in adult mental health care to identify and support children of mentally ill parents

Camilla Lauritzen1*, Charlotte Reedtz1, Karin TM Van Doesum2 and Monica Martinussen1

Author Affiliations

1 Regional Centre for Child and Youth Mental Health & Child Welfare, University of Tromsø, Tromsø, Norway

2 Behavioural Science Institute, Radboud University Nijmegen and Mindfit, Mental Health Centre, Deventer, The Netherlands

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BMC Health Services Research 2014, 14:58  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-14-58

Published: 7 February 2014



Mental health problems are often transmitted from one generation to the next. This knowledge has led to changes in Norwegian legislation, making it mandatory to assess whether or not patients have children, and to provide necessary support for the children of mentally ill patients. The main purpose of this study was to evaluate the process of implementing new routines in adult mental health services to identify and support children of mentally ill parents.


The design was a pre-test post-test study. The sample (N = 219 at pre-test and N = 185 at post-test) included mental health professionals in the largest hospital in the region, who responded to a web-based survey on the routines of the services, attitudes within the workforce capacity, worker’s knowledge on the impact of parental mental illness on children, knowledge on legislation concerning children of patients, and demographic variables.


The results of this study indicated that some changes are taking place in clinical practice in terms of increased identification of children. Adult mental health services providing support for the children was however not fully implemented as a new practice.


The main finding in this study is that the identification frequency had increased significantly according to self-reported data since the Family Assessment Form was implemented. The increase in self-reported identification behavior is however taking place very slowly. Three years after the legislation was changed to making it mandatory to assess whether or not patients have children, it was still not fully incorporated in the routines of the entire workforce. In terms of support for the families affected by parental mental illness, the changes are not yet significant.

Implementation; Changed clinical practice; Children of mentally ill; Parental mental health