At times, both parents may be found to have a mental illness. After accusations by both parents that the other parent is mentally unstable, it may turn out that each of the co-parents has significant personality disorders or psychiatric problems that are causing stress in the children. Indeed, it’s rare to find one parent with severe mental illness or personality problems and the other without some significant deficits. Often, when both parents have difficulties, one may act out in a way that is more observable or that puts the children in the middle.
Joe and Sue had disagreements from the time they decided to end their marriage. They made accusations of physical and verbal abuse against each other, and Children’s Protective Services was called several times regarding suspected abuse and neglect of their two children. Psychological evaluations indicated that both parents had significant psychological problems. Sue had borderline traits and was highly histrionic. Joe was described as having a personality disorder and was extremely rigid.
Sue and Joe accused each other of lying and stealing. Joe was manipulative and placed the children in the middle of their conflicts by sharing financial information with them. Sue had difficulty tolerating the children’s anger and became angry and disconnected from them at times.
Sue initially looked more disturbed because she was highly reactive with professionals. However, as time went on, both Joe and Sue were behaving very inappropriately. If their “craziness” had been contained between the two of them, it wouldn’t have been as serious an issue, but they often dragged the children into the middle, causing them to suffer emotional distress. For their health and safety, the children were placed with an aunt and uncle who could provide a more stable home environment.
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