Influence of mental illness on marriage, reproduction, and parenting in a society without psychiatric services

Joseph Westermeyer

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This survey was undertaken in a peasant society without modern psychiatric services in order to assess marriage, reproduction, and parenting functions among. 35 mentally ill persons. Among the mentally ill, single persons had earlier onset of mental illness as compared to those who had ever been married. Those who had married and produced children had a high rate of divorce from their spouses and separation from their children following onset of mental illness. Among 12 parents whose onset of mental illness began when their children were still young, five were not living with their children and the other seven exercised little or no parental supervision. In two families, the psychotic parent had beaten her children severely. One infant died of neglect when a psychotic mother refused to surrender child care to others. Mentally ill subjects 18 years or older were less apt to be married than opium addicts in the same population. Infant mortality was greater among the children of mentally ill than in the general population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)614-620
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Nervous and Mental Disease
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1980


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