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Dangerous and Severe Parenting Disorder? Personality Disorder, Parenting and New Legal Proposals

NCJ Number
Child Abuse Review Volume: 12 Issue: 4 Dated: July-August 2003 Pages: 227-237
Gwen Adshead
Date Published
July 2003
11 pages
Given that the British Government has proposed new legal measures for the management of people with personality disorders who are dangerous to others, this paper argues that these proposed measures should also apply to parents with personality disorders who present a severe risk of harm to their own children.
Falkov (1996) found that 30 percent of parents who killed their children were previously known to psychiatric services; 6 percent were diagnosed with personality disorder. This is likely to be an underestimate, since comorbidity of personality disorders with other psychiatric illnesses is the norm. Parents with personality disorders may place their children at risk, either indirectly because of their own emotional difficulties or directly because they may be violent to them. Data from existing research on one or two highly publicized cases have influenced the British Government to propose new legal measures to manage the risk posed by people with so-called dangerous severe personality disorder (DSPD). These are people with personality disorders who have been violent toward others. What is being proposed are new legal measures to detain individuals with DSPD for treatment of their risk to others. The draft bill states that treatment must have some benefit, but decreased risk to others may be included as such a benefit. If behavior is deemed to be sufficiently dangerous, the detention may be indefinite. These proposals make no reference to individuals who manifest violent behavior only within the family context; however, extensive data on both domestic violence and child abuse indicate that most severe and dangerous violence is perpetrated by adult parents. If the Government's proposals are enacted, there is no reason why DSPD parents and DSPD partner batterers should not be detained for treatment of their risk to family members. 37 references


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