Environmental Factors Affecting the Mental Health of Children


When children have good mental health, they can develop positive relationships, regulate and express their emotions well, and are keen to learn and explore the world around them.  They develop appropriate self-esteem so that they respect themselves, and they treat others as having equal value.  The family, friends, environment, and media that the child is exposed to are all important influences on a child’s mental health and stability.

Caregivers, Family, and Peers

Parents are usually the children’s first experience in regards to feeling loved, appreciated and secured.  Children learn their self-worth from the way their parents and caregivers treat them.  These include grandparents, teachers, professional care providers, and even siblings.

The Canyon Malibu treatment center mentions that “33% of children who were physically or verbally bullied by their siblings or their parents developed symptoms of mental health disorders much later in life.”

Friends at school can also influence how a child feels about themselves.  For example, an obese child who is bullied at school may start to withdraw socially and develop depression.

Concerns within the Home

One of the most disruptive issues the home setting is when the parent(s) suffer from drug or alcohol addiction.  There is usually disorder, chaos and neglect at home, so the children’s primary needs of love, attention, and structure are not met.

According to NACA (National Association for Children of Alcoholics), children of addicted parents have the highest likelihood of developing substance abuse themselves due to genetic and socio-environmental factors.  This creates a cycle of mistreatment and neglect in their own children when they reach adulthood.

Parents who have substance misuse issue usually impose less discipline on the children, including their exposure to entertainment and media.  The children may find solitude in immersing themselves in television or other media and find they are able to momentarily forget about their home situation.

Role of Entertainment and Media

We are living in an era of fast and easy access to the internet and other forms of technology.  As parents, we are the gatekeeper of our children’s exposure to television and other forms of entertainment.

Appropriate entertainment can be beneficial for children, such as educational TV programs.  After a day full of activities, children may benefit from watching an age-appropriate movie so that they can wind down and relax.

Media becomes a problem when children are exposed to inappropriate programs and entertainment, especially at high volumes.  According to The Psychological Effects of Violent Media on Children, “Research has also shown heavy viewers, which is four or more hours a day, put in less effort at school, have poorer reading skills, play less friendly with friends, have fewer hobbies and activities, and are more likely to be overweight.”

The Surrounding Neighborhood

Children who grow up in high-risk neighborhoods may develop behavioral problems, such as youth violence.  The CDC lists several community risk factors, including:

  • Diminished economic opportunities
  • High concentrations of poor residents
  • High level of transiency
  • High level of family disruption
  • Low levels of community participation
  • Socially disorganized neighborhoods

Poor communities generally suffer from the above risk factors.

Children’s mental health is crucial in their development to becoming successful adults.  The people and the environment surrounding your child have a significant effect on their mental health.  Avoid putting your child in a situation of drug abuse, bullying, or excessive exposure to media.  If at all possible, settle in a low-risk area.

If you or someone in the home has a substance abuse issue, seek help and stop the vicious cycle before it does irreparable damage to your child and future grandchildren.

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