Year: 2016 Source: Family Court Review.(2016).54(1):18Ð28. DOI:10.1111/fcre.12200 SIEC No: 20160146

There is a pervasive assumption that mental illness equates to dangerousness and violence as it applies to parenting. We examine this assumption and present a comprehensive literature review of how issues of mental illness impact violence and dangerousness. A range of issues is explored, including the unpredictability of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, stress from mental health problems inhibiting emotional stability, and past in-patient hospitalizations for suicide attempts as they impact parenting. Risk mitigation strategies are also presented. Practitioner’s Key Points: While the stress and difficulties of living with a mental illness certainly present challenges for any parent to overcome, this article answers the larger question, ÒDoes having a mental illness equate with being an unfit parent?Ó In order to explore what makes an unfit parent, it is necessary to first operationalize what skills, traits, and abilities fit parents possess. The article offers a summary of what it means to be a fit parent. For an individual with mental illness, there may be a risk of unfit parenting or violence. But we can only understand the actuality when we look at the severity of the mental illness, environmental stressors, and additional risk factors. We offer a constellation of protective approaches to better assess the risk by attending to competent risk factors, rather than making broad assumptions concerning mental illness and the ability to parent or proclivity to behave in a violent fashion.