Licentiate of Medicine Lotta Kinnunen
Faculty and research unit
University of Oulu Graduate School, Faculty of Medicine, Center for Life Course Health Research
Field of study
Date and time of the thesis defence
Place of the thesis defence
Remote access: https://oulu.zoom.us/j/65768093257?pwd=SnFwN1FVZnFkSWUrT2QvSkYzVmNOQT09
Topic of the dissertation
The association of parental somatic illness with offspring's mental health
Associate Professor Linnea Karlsson, University of Turku
Professor Jouko Miettunen, University of Oulu
Parents’ physical illness can be stressful for their children
Parents’ somatic (physical) illnesses are present for a substantial proportion of the population and they have a noteworthy, yet complex, association with children’s mental health.
Lotta Kinnunen (M.D.) examined the associations between parents’ somatic illnesses and their children's mental health in her Doctoral dissertation.
From age 8 to 16 years, more than half (55%) of all children born in Northern Finland in 1986 had a parent with a somatic illness. Parents’ musculoskeletal disorders were associated with their children’s increased prodromal symptoms of psychosis. In contrast, some of the parents’ somatic illnesses were associated with their sons’ fewer emotional and behavioral symptoms. This may be because boys possibly develop resilience, ability to cope with hardships, following parent’s illness.
From birth to age 21, over 1 500 (2.6%) of all 60 000 children born in Finland in 1987 had a parent who had a traumatic brain injury. Children who had a parent with a traumatic brain injury used more specialized psychiatric services than their peers. In addition, children who had a parent with a traumatic brain injury were at increased risk for psychiatric disorders. The specific psychiatric diagnoses included substance-use-related disorders and behavioural and emotional disorders among sons and disorders of psychological development among daughters.
Two large data sets were used in the study: The 1987 Finnish Birth Cohort includes almost all children born in Finland in 1987 and The Northern Finland Birth Cohort includes almost all children born in Northern Finland 1986. Cohort data also included parents’ social and health information.
The high prevalence of parents’ somatic illnesses underlines its significance as a potential risk factor for children and highlights the need for accumulating studies on this issue. Particularly parents’ musculoskeletal disorders and traumatic brain injury had an adverse impact on children. However, examples of possible resilience among boys were present with some of the parents’ illnesses. The results highlight the importance of providing support for children whose parent has a somatic illness, whether the support is to reduce negative effects such as mental health problems, or to improve positive effects such as resilience.
Future studies should identify the underlying mechanisms and risk factors that associate with negative consequences of parents’ physical illness to better target prevention strategies.Dissertation
Last updated: 23.2.2021