Should People with Mental Illness Have Children?

March 19, 2012 Angela McClanahan

Should people with mental illness be allowed to have children? It seems like a good time to ask since our reproductive rights are again on the political line.

The quest for a GOP presidential candidate has raised a lot of brouhaha concerning reproductive rights in America. Whether certain politicians aim to force everyone to spawn or limit childbearing rights to a particular set is unclear. The debate, however, brings to mind the question: should people with mental illness have children?

I'm sure I've caused jaws to drop by merely asking, but I'm not the first to do so. Various subsets of the population have had their reproductive rights rescinded since we humans figured out where babies come from. Involuntary sterlization is a very real part of our not-so-distant history--people suffering from psychiatric illness have been subject to the practice even in my lifetime. With an individual's right to birth control currently under fire, how far are we from returning to this obscene practice?

Problems When People with Mental Illness Have Children

Should people with mental illnesses be allowed to be parents? After all, psychiatric illness, when untreated or improperly managed, can be completely disabling. Consider the single mother, unemployed and often bedridden as a result of severe depression. Or the father who lashes out in violent rages due to borderline personality disorder. Are these people "good" parents? Have they done society a disservice by reproducing? Should their right to reproduction be limited moreso than, say, a neurotypical person who doesn't like or want children?

Beyond the child's welfare, supporters of the practice believe it necessary to rid ourselves of mental illness (not to mention mental retardation and/or whatever other unpleasantries hinder polite society)--effectively wiping the genetic slate clean. (Holocaust, anyone?)

The Truth About Parents with Mental Illness Who Have Children

If the only concern is how a child with mentally ill parent(s) fares, the truth is: parents with psychiatric illness can and do have and raise healthy, happy children, just like "normal" people. Mentally ill parents may also have children with mental illness--just like "normal" people. They may also, unfortunately, mistreat or endanger their children--just like "normal" people.

In my 20s, I made the decision to not have children--period. I doubted my ability to effectively parent, and I feared passing on my imperfect brain chemistry. At 28, however, I had Bob, who demonstrated signs of psychiatric illness early on. Was it difficult to be a "good" parent while managing my illness, Bob's, and his father's? Yes, and I still regret some decisions I made during Bob's early years. I like to think we made out okay. Raising Bob, managing his illness (and my own) and raising his neurotypical half-sibling has been infinitely easier with the support of my husband, family and friends. (It really does "take a village.")

Which is why, if ever I am asked whether I believe mentally ill people should have children, my response will be:

"Should anyone?"

APA Reference
McClanahan, A. (2012, March 19). Should People with Mental Illness Have Children?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 15 from

Author: Angela McClanahan

July, 19 2015 at 10:01 am

GOD BLESS THOSE BOLD AND BEAUTIFUL SOULS who have the INTEGRITY AND STRENGTH to stand IN FRONT of those of us who have been weakened by unwarranted abuses!

July, 19 2015 at 9:59 am

By the way, I met my biological mother at 22 years old, and knew her for over 20 years before she passed, and then my biological father a year and a half before he died of cancer. NEITHER SIDE had ANY psychological abnormalities or diseases in that regard, so I have theorized that the ENVIRONMENT has a LOT MORE to do with direct influence, and biological has a lot to do with long term endurance and longevity under such circumstances. Some people become drug addicts and alcoholics (which I never did, except for tobacco). The counselors with whom I have chosen to speak are amazed that after such trauma that I chose internal strength and faith in God and the goodness of those who ARE walking this planet, in many facets of life to surround myself with them, and healthy choices, instead of unhealthy addictions and bad people. I dump bad people as fast as a bad business deal that would I refuse to entertain!

July, 19 2015 at 9:06 am

NEVER, should adoptive parents be allowed to adopt, unless they are CAPABLE OF LOVING THE CHILD, absent of abuse, which was NOT the case in my adoption, especially after being adopting by an extremely racists Portuguese ("Azorian") mother, to a rich, white husband.
I was abused and used as a commodity, with absolutely NO LAWS IN PLACE TO PROTECT ME. My adopted YOUNGER brother was even allowed to attempt to rape me and assault me, and he was actually LAUDED for it (even after I was hospitalized for stitches to my head and brutalized by he and my mother who lauded his attack on me for calling him "mommy's baby". I was ALWAYS treated with contempt for being a victim of outsider bullying, as well, because I was NEVER ALLOWED TO STAND UP FOR MYSELF! You have to understand, VERY RICH PEOPLE CONTROL THE SYSTEM OF LAW ENFORCEMENT, THE JUDICIAL SYSTEM, PSYCHIATRY, RELIGIONS, ATTORNEYS, THE LENDING INDUSTRY, FINANCIAL INVESTMENTS/TRUSTS, ETC!!!
I was one of the .01% that no one ever hears about ... The one doesn't shoot up a theater or cause harm, because I was a scapegoat for my families crime, greed and insanity. All three are full blown alcoholics, narcissists, and criminals, and THE SYSTEM FACILITATED THE AGENDA, as long as the MONEY FLOWED INTO THE RIGHT POCKETS!!!
These are the innocents who psychiatrist cover up with internal corruption, as they make MILLIONS from the wealthy parents who adopt normal children, and turn them in to pawns of the system, and it perpetuates from that base.
Only the very strong will survive that dynamic. I was one of the lucky ones who was smart and strong enough to get out, losing millions of dollars in the process to maintain my own sanity (relatively speaking ;D) ... Even then, there are days why I wonder HOW could ANYONE ADOPT A CHILD AND ABUSE THEM IN EVERY MANNER POSSIBLE, and INTENTIONALLY ALLOW LAW ENFORCEMENT AND THE JUDICIAL SYSTEM PERPETUATE CRIMES AGAINST THE INNOCENT, JUST BECAUSE THEY CAN!!!
My mother taught my spoiled brother that greed, cheating, lying, assaults, and everything else he wanted to do without conscious retribution was okay, as long as you received millions of dollars in the process, even if you victimize others in the family and steal the money their grandparents specifically left to THE CHILD, NOT THE ADOPTING PARENTS.
Then the one of the most trusted of the parents CON THE ADOPTED CHILD in EVERY MANNER POSSIBLE, never tell them "about their fortunes or HUMAN OR LEGAL RIGHTS", but instead make them helpless, dependent, positions, only to force the child to questioning his/her own sanity, especially when they are stealing the child blind of their grandparents' financial trusts/inheritance, by having them innocently sign over millions of dollars to the parents "to safeguard" the adopted child's inheritance, completely under their control ... (No wonder my grandmother "disowned" my father, but left the trusts to us kids, that he ultimately usurped anyway!) AND THIS IS ALL PROTECTED FROM INVESTIGATIONS BY CORRUPT ATTORNEYS and their connections to the local and regional power centers!!!
My family committed over 32 felonies against me as an adopted child, with many other felonies committed and facilitated by my brother against me (unrelated by blood), including assaults, attempted rape, social slander, and lies to complete protection of ANY liability towards the crimes he committed against his sister. My parents HID EVERYTHING, and threatened me to "NEVER TELL AUTHORITIES, or I would lose everything" -- That was the same everything I would later find was only used as a threat, because they all illegally already stole it out from under me! My grandfather would have all of them indicted.
While my brother owns private jets and with a full-time crew on his syndicated yacht, and a personal fortune towards 100 million dollars (that he STOLE from the family with his criminal father-in-law and ex-wife, now also worth over $100 million dollars, along with hid criminal entourage, you start to see the INTENTIONAL DISPARITY and ABUSIVE, EXPLOITATIVE manipulations used in certain adoptions, especially in the 60s when there was no way to determine the sex of a child, when an unwanted female child was adopted before the sex was known. In my case, my parents "invested" in my adoption by financially supporting my biological mother when she was about 5 months along. They MADE SURE the next child's sex was ABSOLUTELY ASSURED. THEY BOTH BELIEVE FEMALES ARE WORTHLESS!!
If I had been born with a penis, especially being FIRSTBORN, I WOULD HAVE BEEN THE MILLIONAIRE, not my brother! He was able to also steal millions more with his criminal wife, conning both of our parents in the process of committing elder abuse against them (our parents were in their 60s when he started getting the trustee to make illegal transfers and business claims.) He directly contributed to abusive methods in stealing/transferring funds and legal rights behind their back .. he had NO LOYALTY towards the very parents that adopted him, because THEY taught him that "using and owning people" is acceptable behavior!
Trust me. God has a way of helping the innocent and the believers who follow HIS path, not the manipulations of religions and finances to control systematic power centers amongst society.
One day all of them will regret what they have done when it comes back to haunt them, both on earth AND beyond this life.
The hardest part, was watching "professionals" in "law-enforcement", psychiatry and financial industries who GREEDILY PERPETUATED and ABETTED THOSE CRIMES, leaves me with little faith in most people's intentions and integrity of soul! Seeing the karma of at least ONE sheriff who was indicted by the FBI (even though other crimes that his department and personnel committed and were never discovered, including internal affairs), was a sad truth of deserved return of that karma, even if only partially returned), was at least some consolation for my suffering.
I was physically beaten by my mother for years, whipped with horse whips, chased with electric cattle prods, beaten into corners, and falsely labeled a bully because I was BIGGER THAN THEY WERE and they were able to gang up on me and lie to my father! My brother was the first male to sexual assault me and physically land me in the hospital, all with my mother's accolades!
GODSPEED and TOTAL APPRECIATION for those who care about and HELP to investigate, confront and deter those wrongs against the innocent and vulnerable!!!

June, 30 2015 at 10:07 am

I'm a manic depressive piece of lowlife, subhuman fecal matter. I wish my parents, an alcoholic and a borderline, had been sterilized, or my mother required to abort. THEIR parents in turn had alcoholism and substance abuse used to self-medicate undiagnosed mental disorders. I pushed hard to be sterilized 5 years ago, but what I really want is what I'll call corrective abortion -- that is, suicide. I don't think I have a right to take up space in the species anymore, and have a civic duty to cease existing.
Sadly, were it not for religious BS that permates our involuntary commitment laws here in the 'States, I'd probably be able to do so safely and legally like they do in Belgium, Holland and Switzerland. To borrow a line from the Germans (who may have gone a bit haywire with eugenics but were right in that it's sound science that makes for efficient public policy), Ich bin Lebensunwertens leben. I'm a life unworthy of life.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

October, 9 2023 at 8:25 pm

I'm so sorry for the generations of abuse that you have endured. And I understand about "Death With Dignity" & Self Euthanasia. It's something I've considered. On top of my chaotic Nature & Nurture upbringing, I contracted a rare disease from hand feeding infected cattle on my grandparents farm. This was on my dad's side & the closest to sanctuary I had. Having mental illness & a disease tested in the 60's by the CIA as 1 of the 1st bioweapons, along with the plague & anthrax. It wasn't diagnosed until 2010. As a child my grandmother told me I acted sick for attention. Devistating for a young girl who knew she wasn't like the other kids. While we have strong influences from our parents, we are not clones or replicas. Yes, I understand, but please really think about it & maybe talk to someone before taking that step. Life is very uncertain & things can change when you lest expect it.

Kristy Mounsey
June, 29 2015 at 6:25 pm

This is a big issue for me. My fiancé has depression and I have bipolar type 1 with psychotic episodes and possibly Aspergers. We have Ben trying to have children for three years due to my fertility issues. I am sure we won't be perfect parents but like all parents we will do our best. My fiancé is going to take time off work to help me with the children when they are first born and my family and friends will be a string network of support (I have intuition I will have twins).
My mother has schizophrenia and she is the greatest mother ever. My childhood had challenges but I always knew I was loved. Many people born to parents without mental illnesses are abused or neglected.

June, 29 2015 at 6:20 pm

It depends 100% on what type of support you have...professional, family, friends etc. For a person with a mental illness to raise a child alone or with little support is not advisable in my opinion. A child needs to feel safe and adequately cared for (both physically and emotionally) in order to develop in a healthy manner. If there is someone (or some people) around to help provide that consistent safety and caring and who explain to a child why their parent is unable at times, to provide that, then it can work.

April, 3 2015 at 12:35 pm

To comment on this blog I also have to bring this to the forefront again. My take on this is first that us as a society need to do away with the with term "mental" illness and put it into the Physical Illness category as an illnesses of the brain that effects the mind. As long as Mental illness remains "Mental Illness" the stigma will never go away. In fact, it is only increasing, thanks to the high profile mass shootings and airline crashes. The problem is that when you say that person has a mental illness, society assumes a mental illness is just one thing: And that is typically Schizophrenia (Partly thanks to Hollywood!) and an immediate danger to yourself and others.
However with Physical illness, we don't lump all the different things together in one stereotype "fits all" type thing. "Ohh that person has a Physical Illness-He must have Cancer." (when it is just a flu)." By placing the mental illnesses into physical illnesses with its own separation between disorder. In other words, "I have Diabetes", "I have Cancer", "I have the flu", I have "depression", I have "bi polar"...
So to comment about banning people having kids who have "mental illness" is unconstitutional. Sure, it probably is not in the best interest of a person who has severe untreated Psychosis or Borderline Personality Disorder<-- the most stigmatized of them all I think to try to have a stable relationship. But someone with ADHD, when managed correctly let's say may by the type of person that may be EXCEL in parenthood and may make the best parents. Also we don't ask whether or not someone with diabetes should have kids because they might "pass on their diabetic gene". While the risks of passing those genes on are higher, it does not mean that person won't be Neurotypical (the real word for "normal"). Mentally healthy have kids with autism all the time. Where a parent with autism may have children that end up going to Harvard. Finally if the parents know before hand that their is a risk factor passing on their neuro genes - this should enable them to monitor their children for any behavior anomalies right away. If this is done early, chances are good that any physical behavioral disorder ("mental illness" will be mild at best).
So I agree with you, "mentally ill" people should not be banned from having children. Otherwise we would need to ban ALL people with any have people. Obviously that is not a rational move. Finally I would like to say that I have seen some neurotypical (normal) people that would make two Schizophrenic Parents win a parents of the year award!
Sorry this is long, Grammar may not be perfect, but I had to get this out. It's time that society evolves to where we are with understanding and Technology. Btw I have ADHD/Mood Disorder NOS and Narcolepsy w/o Cataplexy.. <-- in a state of remission for the last several years w/ ongoing therapy. It's money unfortunately that is keeping me single. Not a mental disorder! But that is a whole different topic. I have always been the person to hold the door open for others, accept anyone for who they are, and respect and cherish whatever relationships I have. Characteristics I sometimes see lacking with many normal people! ;)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

January, 1 2024 at 3:04 am

Thank you, Jake, I believe that was written very eloquently, and put your point across very well.
This brings to point that the conversation shouldn't be about "Banning" people from having children," but about the opinions of individuals and their own situations. If you feel that you shouldn't have children, because of your situation, whether it be a medical reason, or even whether it be because you simply do not wish for children, then you should be allowed to. My sister has several disabilities, and she decided very, very early on, she did not want children. The laws of the US state she lived in, however, declared that in order to be sterilized, as it were, she had to wait to reach a certain age or have a certain amount of children. It seems ridiculous to me that a woman can not make the decision herself to permanently remove the chance of accidental pregnancy if she truly wants it. But I also believe that the ultimate choice to have children lies with the individual involved. If you want to have children, and you want to try and be a good parent, then you should. No parent is perfect, mistakes are always made, and everyone, even neurotypical parents, can traumatize their children. That doesn't mean they never should have had them in the first place. I will never tell someone it is their duty to have children, to progress our species, or for any other reason. Your body is your body, your life is yours. All I ask is the same respect, that despite my own neurodivergent situation, if I believe that I want a child and I will try my best to be a good mother, even if they are affected by my genetics, that I should be able to. It's probably more important to give support to families who are struggling to raise their children or to help children in abusive households.
I respect the opinions shared on the matter. If you don't want children, then, of course, don't have children. If you genuinely want them, to cherish and love them, of course, then have them. Give birth, or adopt, or foster care, whatever you feel is right for you. Because at the end of the day, you are the one taking care of them, nurturing them, teaching them, and even learning from them. Things can go badly of course, there are struggles and trials, but that doesn't mean it should never have happened at all, or that other people in similar situations should be banned from having children. I am sorry for the trauma some have suffered, due to their parents, and if those people feel it would be better for them not to have children, then that is of course their choice. But it should always be a choice.

Patricia Milla
March, 29 2015 at 5:28 pm

I totally disagree unfortunately, as the product of a mental ill mother, I have suffer my bipolar depression from the start, and on top of that suffer my mother's life hard times together with her, which has left me traumatized, with no friends, unable to hold a job and the only thing I'm proud of is that because I know how hard and sad is life for somebody with a mental illness, is that I decided since the begining never pass this curse to anybody else if is in my power.
Why would I be such a mean person to give that awful gift to somebody (my child) if I'm supposed to protect him/her, care, love, and give the best I can, I would be doing the total contrary by giving my illness.
Is not fair to play with the lives of our children.
After all we're supposed to be intelligent creatures, so why in the world would we have children knowingly,

November, 25 2014 at 12:54 pm

wow what a story.. after reading all the comments i had yet to find anyone who had developed a mental illness after an accident as I had. My central nervous system had been damaged and I had already had my children. The oldest becoming a nurse in university and my youngest who is currently in the care of my mother because i was unable to physically or mentally deal with raising a child by myself. But in my case i was alone, even my family did not help me, and even reaching out to social development they had waited until i was heavily medicated before they would assist in any way. I'm now fully funtional and medication free and it's been 4 and a half years, almost 5.. and even though i've come this far i am still over anxious and unable to deal with stressful situations like a "normal" person. I feel that the saying is true, "it takes a community to raise a child", if a person has support and help in their lives they can have that dream of having a child, mental illness is not genetically transferred lol not for the most part, in fact 65% of all mental illness is because of how the person is treated by society and by their parents and family. If a baby has not been held, it will devolop a mental disorder and refrain from wanting to be close.. it is the same with forgotten adults.. after a while, we refrain from wanting to be around people but only because it had been so long not having anyone around. -- and that is a chronic mental disorder. People should have the right to be a parent.

Tanique Nelson
November, 15 2014 at 9:41 am

My mom was born with a mental disease and she was in a car accident which o my made things hard.....we were forced to be raised by her and it was not easy especially me being her first child. She beat the hell out of us with exstention cords, constantly talked down to us in front of people. She did not buy us any clothes, (only her boyfriends) we lived in a garage with no toilet or shower for the first woman in the right mind would allow they kids to live like that. I smelled like pee going to school I was known as the fish girl,, so of course I got into fist was her fault for neglecting me. And she had the nerve to beat me over it. I wet the bed every night and she beat me saying I was just being lazy... Like really why would I purposely pee on myself to get more beatings, smh. I still have a problem till this day cause she never took me to a specialist like she was suppose to. She purposely kept us away from my father side of the family cause she new they cares for us and wouldn't want to see us living like that. I was molested in a McDonald's bathroom by a strange man. He just came in the room and started feeling me up...I screamed so loud he got scared and ran out!! Instead of her holding me she yelled at me for forgetting to lock the door....her sister was questioning how was I sitting on the toilet I was only 8 years at the time.....saying I hope you was not sitting on that dirty toilet. Just sick people. I was a great kid but living with my mom ruined me. She was promesicuos slept with different men every week... Was not a mother figure at all. I was a cheerleader for four years. They always had me in the front. No matter how bad I smelled or If my hair was not done they kept me in the front. That's how good I was. She never came to watch. My brothers were the best on they football team she never came to watch....just always abused us..... Her and her whole entirely family...No I do not think people with mental illness should me raising kids

October, 26 2014 at 1:08 pm

Fact is mentally ill people do and will have children. These children will often grow up with problems due to the environment. Some mentally ill, or disturbed parents are high functioning, others are I diagnosed eg intelligent grandiose parents don't recognise any problem with themselves. Yet they can be cruel and inconsistent.
As far as child neglect goes, emotional neglect can't be detected in more middle class homes, so it would be more of a class divide in making such decisions.
I do not believe that parents with severe mental illness should be raising children, it should be about the child's needs once the baby is born. Children thrive on routine, predicable caregivers, the very nature of some mental illness does not contribute to such an environment.

Arielle fibison
October, 22 2014 at 3:42 pm

Some of the most smartest people had/have mental illness ! Also in my opinion some with closed minds I feel like thats more of a disease then anything and shame on those that think they had it better in reality people who are shallow , closed minded, hateful, and pass judgements among others shouldn't breed ... I've seen parents with shallow minds have shallow and rude children now that is a worser sickness to me.!

Arielle fibison
October, 22 2014 at 3:33 pm

Do people realize the people who where born with a mental disorder didn't ask for it. Also just because you have depression or ocd borderline personality disorder doesn't make you a unfit parent to begin with how shallow can people be . I myself have these disorders and have children of my own my children are a gift the best gift I have gotten since dealing with these mental illnesses at a young age and nor did I ask to be born in this world like this but hey I made it and to many I'm a very strong willed beautiful person and mother !! The government is sicking and does to much controlling .... Let it be

October, 21 2014 at 12:29 pm

Wow. Does this topic hit me in the gut. My biological mother was what they called back then a 'paranoid schiophrenic'. It did not help that it was the late 1970s and women were still being handed Valium (like she was) for 'nervous conditions/hysteria.' And of course that she had married someone sick and violent toward both her and I (the police/ambulance knew our address by heart) didn't help the situation. She died in a mental institution of rather mysterious causes after trying to kill me bare-handed with a razor blade. I still bear the physical scars today.
She had three other daughters (half-sisters to me). One of them is a carbon-copy of her, down to the abusive relationships. I do not associate with her. I don't associate with the other two, either, but for the most part, they are able to maintain relationships, work, and live on their own. I consider that a "win" in terms of the genetics involved.
Sadly, I have probably missed the boat in terms of having biological children. I never wanted to have any before--in no small part due to not wanting to pass this disease on to my offspring. So far I've gotten away with "only" OCD and perhaps a touch of bi-polar, but I've used it to my "advantage" in choosing frenetic, dysfunctional, and unpredictable careers (LOL.) I take medication, too.
I have recently been reunited with a long-lost love who, after many years of battling alcohol and drug addiction (in a desperate grasp to self-medicate a severe case of undiagnosed bipolar disorder)is now facing his demons in an in-patient rehab facility. We have talked seriously about children, yes, even at our age (40s.) He has no problem with using a sperm donor or even a donated embryo that would not be "biologically" related to either of us, but still our baby.
There is a part of me that would like some of the good in me and the good in him to live on, but I still find myself terrified. He has one adult daughter, a wonderful, smart, beautiful young woman who recently had a baby of her own. She graduated college with honors and is going to grad school for nursing. And his mother is one of the most selfless people you could meet. Really, it's his father's genes and my biological mother's genes that I fear getting together.
We're not bad people, and we've recognized our illnesses and are taking medicine for them. Even my own psychiatrist has been supportive of my renewed choice to have children. So maybe, because we are self-aware, should we be so blessed one day we would be better prepared to see the signs and address them, if they ever manifested themselves. I keep trying to tell myself that every one of us takes a gamble by just getting out of bed in the morning, that there are no guarantees in life, the best-laid plans, and all that. I don't have much time to debate with myself about this, unfortunately, as I've squandered most of my fertile years on fear. So, we shall see.
My thoughts are with everyone faced with such a difficult choice. But I certainly wouldn't support any kind of laws to force sterilization of 'mentally ill' people, or retarded people, or the like. That is eugenics, plain and simple, just a step away from genocide. And that is never the right choice. Never was, and never will be.

October, 7 2014 at 10:11 pm

I had to seriously think about this of late. I'm a lesbian.
My partner desperately wants to have children. And while I am not opposed to the idea I do not want to use her genetics. I would like it if she carried the baby but it was biologically mine. Her entire family has severe mental disorders ranging from borderline personality disorder, paranoid schizophrenia, pedophilia , bipolar, she's manic depressive herself. Not a single member of her nuclear family (herself included) is able to hold down a job. They all have some form of mental illness.
While I am not claiming to have superior genetics in any way, (as she claims) my family are all mentally stable. The worst I can pass on is asthma and eczema.
I have been there restraining her violent parent and suffering the verbal abuse from her and her family. I have been there when she has tried to commit suicide on various occasions, I had to take the noose of her neck when I came in and found her trying to hang herself :(
In the end, I don't think it's right to knowingly pass on those kind of illnesses. If you're unable to even care for yourself, your finances or keep a job? Then what is left to offer a child?
While I love my girlfriend with all my heart I cannot imagine having children with her. She is emotionally abusive towards me and refuses to take her medication or seek counselling. Perhaps I am being cold? I don't know. But in the long run if she won't get help or keep up with her medication, then I can't see myself continuing a relationship with her let alone having children.

October, 4 2014 at 10:35 pm

I have wanted to start a campaign for this for such a long time. Maybe it's because I'm bitter and resentful that I'm alive, but I believe it is really about avoiding passing the disorder along to others. I am willing to put aside my selfish ambition of having kids to do society a service. NO ONE with mental illness should be having kids-I would go as far as to say that no one with it in their family history should be having kids. I mean-come on, do you really want to give someone life who doesn't want it just to entertain yourself? I don't know about anyone else, but I would rather avoid the problem altogether than try to fix it once it gets here.

September, 22 2014 at 8:22 pm

Theresa says:
May 26, 2013 at 8:44 am
I believe if you suffer from a mental illness and are unable to work and live off the government, no you should not have babies. The cycle has to be broken. I am a better person knowing that I have saved a child from what I have to go through. Being institutionalized I’ve seen parents and their children (whom have same issues as their parents and live of the government and will do so all their life).
Im 80% disabled and live off of government money i went to college on government money the Post 9/11 GI BILL is amazing. i was paid for 6 years by government money since i was 18.

September, 22 2014 at 7:20 pm

i never do comments but i cant sleep because of this topic and here is my story im going to be straight forward and honest so please dont get offended. I am a combat vet with PTSD I also have a mood disorder/depression its been a rough ride. I am by no means the smartest person alive. I have been faking normal for a very long time. My 3 year old brings me peace in life she is so happy to see me in the morning it makes me cry that she adores me like that. Her smile alone is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. I left her when she was 2 months old basically turning them into a single parent home while my wife was still on active duty. The thought of her being remove from our home because of my disorders is the only thing i fear and i really mean the only thing. The VA scares me because of this they already took my second amendment w/o due process i now basically have the same rights as a felon all due to ignorance and fear for public safety "i have never committed a crime and i served my country with honor and dignity". Its not my place to make judgments calls on anyone! i feel that Posts and reports/articles like this will bring even more stereotypes to people with disorders. it tears me apart that others really think that people like me cant be a good parent makes want to vomit. just to add the topping my wife and i both grew up in single parent homes. We have the strongest bond any family can have or will ever have. my advise build on peoples strength not reminding them of their weakness! the strongest/best and brightest of us still fall and need help getting back up some more than others. The one thing i have learned with a very heavy heart when dealing with mental disorders is a strong support chain. If you are dealing with a loved one that has a disorders please don't ever give up on them and do not pass judgement it is a terrible feeling. I would do anything for people that suffer from these types of illness, I will do anything that's what leaders do!

Lori Smith
September, 21 2014 at 3:46 am

My other question is should my granddaughter be able to see her parents or be involved with her at some point. Her psychologist says no. Is this best for her mental stability. We have always been honest with her and she is aware of her parents disability.

Lori Smith
September, 20 2014 at 5:53 pm

My granddaughter has two parents that have an IQ below 70. My granddaughter does not see her dad and her mother is getting ready to go in a group home . They cannot take care of my granddaughter and her father still lives with his parents and can't keep a job and her mother is pretty much in the same boat. We are wanting to adopt my granddaughter. We feel this would be best for her. What is your opinion?

August, 31 2014 at 8:44 am

I have four members of my family who suffer from MI, including my mother.
Schizophrenia most of them.
Anyways, I grew up without a father from birth, raised by my grandmother and mother, low income family.
I'm 29 now, working never had any real bad issues, just normsl kid stuff.
I will be attending college for the first time in my life, engineering major.
Never did drugs, never been drunk, never violent (unless you were a douchebag)
:) I'm doing more than well, do not miss the chance to raise a child, unless you are completely and utterly crippled by your disease.

Nicole Cree
August, 16 2014 at 3:13 am

I worried about passing on my schitzoaffective disorder to my child or not being a good parent. I think it is important to distinguish between someone who is very unwell, without social and medical support and someone whose illness is well managed and who has good support. My father suffered from depression which was tough for our family at some times but he is the most wonderful dad. I know that I am a great mum and my husband and I are expecting our second son in a few months. I am fortunate that I have been able to continue my medication while pregnant and nursing my son.
I would not have had children when my illness was very severe but I have been well for many years. I still have bad days but I know that I have the responsibility to care for myself so that I can be the best mum for my son that I can be. I can't be sure that I won't become ill again in the future but no parent can ensure that they won't develop any illness in the future.
Parents have the responsibility to get the best treatment they can for their illness just as a parent with cancer would. But let's not blame people for their illness and make assumptions. Many of the most difficult effects of mental illness are caused by stigma and fear of mental illness, causing isolation and ineffective treatment.
I am very sorry for people who have suffered due to a parent's illness but I have known many people who have suffered because of their parent's personality, drug or alcohol problem, incarceration, physical illness, etc. Let's support parents to be the best parents they can be.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Christina Halli
August, 16 2014 at 4:59 am

Thank you for your well said thoughtful comments. I can understand your concerns about passing on mental illness to your children. It is normal to want our kids to be healthy. You make a valid point that no parent can predict the future much less their own perfect health. We do the best we can. It sounds like you are a great mum.

July, 30 2014 at 9:22 pm

This is an issue that has recently come up in my (relatively) recent marriage, and I'm struggling to find helpful resources.
I have a history of mental illness on both sides of my family (though only on my mother's is it admitted to and treated).
I suffer from anxiety and depression (though I've recently discovered the latter is caused by the former in my case) - both of which are now well controlled through CBT and not allowing my anxiety to permit me to procrastinate on things until I end up in a paralyzed, depressed state.
My mother and one sister also suffer from depression (as does my father, who has never sought treatment), but I have a second sister suffering from bipolar depression - which was diagnosed in her teens and required dramatic Outward Bound style treatment.
My wife's family exhibits some mental illness (though most is not readily admitted to), and she has grave concerns about having children (mostly due to the more open and overt nature of such issues in my family).
While I worry myself about not only my own long-term mental well-being and the seemingly high likelihood of similar traits being passed to the next generation, I like to think that the sensitivity to such mental problems I now possess would make a happy, healthy (with early intervention when/if required) childhood quite possible despite any genetic disadvantages.
I'm strongly against any "Gattica" style genomic cleansing, but is the chance (certainly above average in this case) of hereditary mental illness (taking into account any number of other problems possible when having a child) reason enough to dismiss the idea outright?

July, 17 2014 at 8:06 am

I think people that have true mental illness, not learning disabilities, should not have children. My poor husbands' mother has PTSD,depression and who knows what else. She is a good hearted person but was a terrible mother. Not abusive just so wrapped up in her own problems she couldn't parent. He really suffered and went through a lot. I don't know that she shouldn't have had children but she should not have been permitted to parent.
I think if someone has a diagnosed mental illness,and they don't do well in caring for themselves then not they should not have children or if the do they should not be permitted to parent.

Davina Rowan
June, 14 2014 at 4:21 pm

Hi there all,
What a controversial and heated topic. I have suffered depression all my life-I am now 36 and nobody has dared have a child with me. This eats me up inside and makes me feel suicidal as having my own baby is a life long dream. It is so unfair that somebody else can stamp you as 'mentally ill' and you go through life and miss out on everything, anyone who has been through this should understand. Seeing other people getting on with their lives and mine slipping by and nothing changing it is the most horrendous and gut wrenching feeling.

Eve Kurpiers
November, 25 2013 at 6:44 pm

Absolutely NOT!! My mother had schizophrenia and bipolar, she was deathly afraid of getting pregnant and she asked her doctor (back in the 1960s) if mental illness
was passed on genetically. Quack doc either didn't know or lied. My mother was hospitalized most of my terrifying childhood. I was raised by my eccentric grandmothers and my
father (who ALSO has OCD). I have had OCD since 4 - my mom died of cancer when I was 35. Im 46, on Paxil and Klonopin and can barely make it out of bed. My "life" has been Hell On Earth!!!!
Please adopt or just take care of yourself!!!! I beg of you!!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

December, 2 2013 at 4:30 pm

Hi Eve,
I want to thank you so much for sharing your story. My heart goes out to you. One thing I have to say is that less was known about mental illness and the human brain in the 60's than today. But, I can see how difficult your life has been given the different diagnoses within your family. I think you brought up some good suggestions - they are based on how well you know yourself. While you share that your life has been hell on earth, it sounds as if you're taking the steps you need to at least make it livable. Taking your medication and focusing on yourself are good ways to take care of yourself in a healthy way. Thanks again for visiting. Please come again soon.

October, 5 2013 at 9:59 am

NO CHILDREN! Absolutely not! So many mentally ill individuals can't care for themselves!!!! Why should innocent children be subjected to neglect? That is SO WRONG!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

October, 6 2013 at 12:01 pm

Hi Cindie,
Thank you for visiting and sharing your perspective. As a professional, I have to say that there is more to this question than meets the eye and it is more complex than a yes or no answer. Different mental illnesses have different features and levels of dysfunction. Say if a person has ADHD or PTSD. Should someone with their mental illness under control be barred from having children? What if a person develops a mental illness after trauma - say after the Boston Marathon bombing? Should those individuals not have children? This is why mental illness and mental health education is so important. And working in child welfare has allowed me a very unique perspective. There are many families involved in child welfare where mental illness isn't an issue, but instead poverty, abuse and ignorance abound. Mental illness can develop due to many factors - genetics or life experience (traumatic events, natural disasters, etc). As it stands, 1 out of every 6 adults will develop a mental illness at some point in their lifetime. And for kids, that number is bigger. 1 out of every 5 kids will be diagnosed with a mental illness. That means mental illness is a much bigger issue than any one can imagine. Please visit again and take care.

July, 12 2013 at 7:42 am

I can say from experience that mentally ill parent I believe that you shouldn't have children. I want to say that I love my mother very much and she is mentally stable and usually takes care of us very well but when she has her breakdown it was really unbearable for us as kids and even now. I have really low steam and I blame it on embarrassment caused by mother shouting and running across the neighborhood. I believe that mentally ill parents have absolute disastrous impact on the personality development and we simply cannot ignore the role early childhood plays in the our mental development and even my younger sibling shows signs of mental disorder and suffers from anger issues and he has absolutely no empathy for anyone. I hope others don't suffer from same fate that almost made me consider suicide when I was young and I absolutely believe that mentally ill people shouldn't be allowed to become parents. The whole right to procreation doesn't justify the experiences that the children of mentally ill people go through..

May, 26 2013 at 3:44 am

I believe if you suffer from a mental illness and are unable to work and live off the government, no you should not have babies. The cycle has to be broken. I am a better person knowing that I have saved a child from what I have to go through. Being institutionalized I've seen parents and their children (whom have same issues as their parents and live of the government and will do so all their life).

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

May, 30 2013 at 3:56 am

Hi Theresa,
Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your point of view. Having children at all sometimes is a hard decision. Much more so if one or both parents suffer from severe mental illness, which you've described. You must have seen so much hurt and suffering with families. I admire you for your resolve to help others by sharing your perspective. Please come visit again soon.

April, 20 2013 at 9:13 am

I chose not to have a child with my ex-husband. He has Borderline Personality Disorder and my decision wasn't because of this but because of the violence and abuse that permeated our home. I knew how I felt and there was no way I was going to bring an infant into that environment.
I'm out now, and too old to have a baby but hope to be able to foster or adopt soon.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

April, 21 2013 at 2:11 pm

Hi Katie,
Thank you for your candid words. It must have been so difficult for you to make that decision, but it also shows how loving you are to yourself and any future child you parent. I made a similar decision in not having more children with Bob's father. It too was because I didn't want to expose another child to the chaos in our home at the time. Please visit again soon.

March, 28 2013 at 5:48 am

I have depressive disorders and suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome, and was myself raised in a very unhealthy environment. My kids father has Aspergers. We are no longer together, but trying to co-parent across state lines. I have full custody. What I have found is that we each bring strengths and weaknesses to their lives. If we could work together it would be for the good of the kids, but we haven't been able to achieve that so far.
I struggle with day to day tasks, getting their homework done every day, laundry, dishes, etc. Sometimes my house is really messy, to the point of being filthy. Most of the time it is ok.
He doesn't struggle with these things, or more accurately, his new wife takes care of these everyday things and he doesn't have to worry about it. When the girls have lived with him in the past they have done well in school, homework done every day, etc. But he is emotionally and mentally abusive.
My main failing is the ability to cope with everyday tasks. I know I have healthy boundaries with my kids, i don't depend on them to make me feel better or anything like that. Nor have I ever been abusive toward them.
He likes to think that because they do well in school when they are with him that I am a bad parent. But they are more emotionally happy when they are with me.
I feel guilty about my shortcomings as a mother, but I defend my decision to not have them be in his home full time. It seems to really mess them up when they are.
which is worse? a poor physical environment? or a poor emotional environment?

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

April, 2 2013 at 1:54 pm

Hi Andrea. Thanks for coming by to share your story. It sounds as if you and your ex were a good match in that you could help him with the emotional stuff and he could help you with the physical tasks. The question you ask is a valid one - are people affected more by having to overcome physical challenges or emotional ones? It is a good one. Both have their drawbacks. Both have strengths. And both affect people in different ways. A home where structure is lacking, but is emotionally strong can help children in the long term. But if they are going to school and unable to achieve goals for lack of follow-through, that will affect their ability to perform and then their self-esteem. A home where the structure is in place, but is emotionally barren and abusive can hurt people. And it may be harder for people to recover. That being said, both types of environment can teach people to cope well. Or not. It really depends on the individual. I've worked with families where one or the other is the case. And both as well. My advice to you is that if you find physical tasks challenging, get help. Find case management services through your insurance or health provider so that you can provide structure with your children. As for the ex, you can't control what he does, but you can advocate for him to receive counseling due to his treatment of the children. And know also that every parent feels guilt. Recognizing your own limitations is a very good sign that you're doing what you need to do for them. Thanks for visiting and please come again soon. :)

February, 15 2013 at 1:22 am

We can discuss it in an ethical sense. "Ought parents with mental illness have children?". But the suggestion they should somehow be stopped from doing so is dangerous.
This article pointed out, accurately, that people require support. If people with mental illness could be prevented from having children or have their children taken away, they would be less likely to access support services that could help them, or access psychiatric care - putting children in more danger.
Also, pre-emptive parent selection is dangerous. I have no issue with children being removed from households where there is violence, abuse or neglect. However, stopping people from having children because they suffer from depression for example, is pre-emptive and would have to be based on some statistic that depressed parents are more likely to be abusive or neglectful. But what if I did a study that showed that certain ethnic groups were more abusive and neglectful than others? Studies have shown that lesbian couples raise better adjusted children than hetero or gay male couples. i am all for gay people having children, but should we use that statistic to ban fatherhood?
its insane. i would imagine we would get to the point where only neuro-typical, mentally and physically healthy lesbian asian women from upper middle class backgrounds could raise families (which they should. i simply made up that group because i would imagine they statistically don't produce messed up kids. but when you start looking at it like that, are these the only parents that we want? don't we want a whole bunch of different people creating our new world?)
oh and imagine custody battles if any evidence of mental illness could be considered to lose you the right to see your child.
starting pre-emptive punishments, even for the right reasons, is so dangerous because we have to consider how much we really trust our authorities to start a program of eugenics? where on earth would that end? hell i think.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

February, 19 2013 at 4:25 pm

Hi Kitty. Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your perspective. I agree that with the right supports, people with mental illness can lead happy and productive lives. It just takes work and effort like anything else. It also takes great self-care. In the ethical sense, if people with mental illness were stopped from having children - so many of us wouldn't even be here. Myself included. And who should tell someone like Bob (as an adult) that he can't have children because he has a mental illness? Why take that hope away instead of giving it? Thanks again for the visit and please come again soon.

December, 20 2012 at 4:33 am

I have Borderline Personality Disorder and Dissociative Identity Disorder. I have a mix of rapid mood swings, psychosis, blackouts. My conditions frighten me, I can't imagine how they would be for a child to experience. I don't believe that people with a mental illness or conditions like mine should have kids. I'm getting steralised as I'm terrified biology will take over and I'll get pregnant. The rights of my 'potential child' is more important than my need to breed. All children deserve a stable home environment and the best chance in life. I couldn't live with myself if I raised my child in an unstable environment or if I abused them. Having a child, knowing you have a MI or unresolved trauma issues, you are responsible for what happens to the child. I see women in my therapy group abuse and neglect and terroroise their kids due to their condition, expect them to care for their ill parents. It's totally unfair, these kids have no life at all and they seem to be developing a mix of mental illness and trauma disorders of their own as a result. The cycle needs to stop!
The definition of abuse is when an adult uses a child for their unmet needs or expects them to do things they are too young to cope with. It's not about being a 'good' parent, it's about not messing up your kids!

Dr Musli Ferati
April, 11 2012 at 11:48 pm

Anywhere, the question of having children, if anybody suffer from mental illnes exhibits many medico-social problems as well as unpredictable psychosocial consequences. Furthermore, when it is wellknown fact that person with mental disorder have got limited and compromised life skills. At the same time, parenting is very hard and responsible job. On the other hand, children for parent with mental disorder indicate a supportive and stimulative psychosocial factor. These counterdictive momments imposse diferent dilemas on parenting of psychiatric patients. However, I agree with Your opinion that psychiatric patient might to have children, like person without mwntal illness.

Amanda Green
March, 30 2012 at 12:19 pm

And as for passing genes on, there are lots of problems and illnesses that can be passed on from mothers, whether genetic or through misconduct whilst pregnant. Then there's poverty and all sorts of other terrible situations that children are born into. There are enough supposedly 'normal' people who are bad parents, and plenty of mentally ill people who are good parents, and vice versa, so I don't believe there is any clear cut answer to this question. Children have no choice about being born into this world which is full of problems anyway, and unfortunately for some, they are born into terrible situations - but mental illness is just one of thousands of those issues - a drop in the ocean. I do, however, want to see children protected from real danger as that is just not fair but we can't try to control everything. We have human rights, and I feel they should not be taken away - they are not in Africa in terrible famine, so perhaps they shouldn't be in America, the UK or anywhere else! But that is where it gets tricky and I am not going to go into all that...

Amanda Green
March, 30 2012 at 12:05 pm

My Mum suffered with catatonic schizophrenia for over 20 years, in which time she was hospitalized on and off for lengthy periods. She had my three brothers during the worst phases, spending my eldest brothers first two years in Hospital while my Great Aunt looked after him. My Dad worked, and stood by my Mum, then I was born and my mum came out of hosptial for the last time when I was six. I saw and heard it all, quiet, fights, shouting, slamming, outbursts, but my mum and dad are still together now. I spent quite a few years resentful and questioning why on earth I was born to please my mother, but after therapy I learnt to forgive her. I have now spent 3 years writing my memoir, going through all my past, delving into the ins and outs of our circumstances as a family and I came to the conclusion that it was fine to have us children. We all have issues of a sort but hey doesn't everyone? I turned out to have borderline personality disorder, depression, OCD and anxiety issues and got quite disturbed whilst going through my past but with therapy I got through and now I realize that having the family I have taught me to be patient, strong, forgiving, understanding, thoughtful and to appreciate what I have. And now my mum and I have come out the other side, I can say that I see and feel and enjoy life better as well as, perhaps better, than most 'normal' people, since my illness really took me on a roller coaster journey of adventure :-) Whilst 'not being myself' I did refrain from becoming a mum, for fear that I couldn't cope with the responsibility, and now at 38 it might be too late now but at least I feel better :-)

March, 30 2012 at 4:52 am

Yes, I believe that certain mentally ill persons should not be able to pass along their genes to offspring. But only by court order should it be done. Perhaps that is being done today, but I am not aware of such court orders. I sometimes think that my mother should not have had offspring because of her instability. I am prejudiced here because I am the only one of her four offspring to have suffered a severe mental illness. And it was probably a combination of genetics and early environment with early environment being by far the most influential aspect. Should I have been desterilized? No, because of the chance of recovering enough to be able to raise healthy children. I have had to live my life with a handicap, and I have never told anyone, even family. I could not have raised healthy children in my condition. So I have not passed on my condition to another, and that is a good thing.

Rabid Squirrel Girl
March, 19 2012 at 9:50 pm

MY choice to have a child changed over the years. For a VERY long time I did not want a child because I feared the genetics I would bring. After years of reevaluating my beliefs and options, here is what worked for me.
I got real with myself. I divorced myself from my specific illness and thought about it as though it was any other serious heritable medical condition. Finding a compatible mate is hard enough without the additional worry of genetics.
So, I found someone with no mental illness in his family. We even tried to make the romantic thing work. Unfortunately, our marriage was short-lived, largely due to his realization that he just couldn't and wouldn't cope with my bipolar disorder for the rest of his life. However, the decision I made to have a child with someone who brought some different genetics to the mix and who is a good father (though crappy husband) is one that I am still confident I would make again. It was a rational, patiently considered decision.
I am reminded how much I am blessed every time I look at my son. And since I get a lot of compliments on what a great mother he has, I am starting to see through other's eyes that he is blessed as well.

March, 19 2012 at 11:23 am

I forgot to mention that I am Bipolar with Schizoaffective Disorder which I've been since I was a teenager. My mom was a paranoid schizophrenic as was two of my sisters. Another one of my sisters was Bipolar. Yes, I believe it's hereditary - those three sisters committed suicide. They were not managed by Psychiatric help and I believe I will live a long and happy life, since I am well managed with medical assistance. I miss my dear sisters but we loved each other and cared for each other and when enduring my mothers behavior.

March, 19 2012 at 11:08 am

You raise a significant point. I believe that parenting is a learned behavior and hopefully not only from our parents but from books to assist us. My daughter is 31 years old and an only child. She is demonstrating signs psychiatric illness now. She has a very bad temper and lashes out at me and her father. She's fairly good with her work associates but her friends suffer from her behavior. But her friends are so near and dear that they help her through her outbursts. She's not screaming loud or anything she just states very directly, her anger. Do I think that I should have had her? Well, I thought about not having children like three of my sisters but I don't regret my decision to have her at all. She is beautifully precious and smart and thoughtful most of the time. She will have to face her own battles with the help of Psychiatric assistance when she is ready. As for government involvement - keep them out of our homes!

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