The Parenting Center

The Parenting Center is a branch of the Institute dedicated to ongoing parent education. Project CUIDAR offers free parenting and child enrichment courses. The Parental Intervention Project works to connect incarcerated parents with their children, through counseling, activities and courses. The Parent and Family Resource Center is an online tool used to access relevant articles, reading material and information regarding new parenting techniques. The Sciene of Parenting offers parenting courses in the community, in collaboration with local agencies, offered at low-cost. For more information, please see the associated links.

Parenting Quality and Mental Health

By Laura Kamptner, Ph.D.

Studies have repeatedly linked poor-quality parenting (e.g., insensitive, rejecting, harsh, abusive, neglectful ) to a wide variety of child, adolescent, and adult behavioral disturbances, mental health problems, personality disorders, and social ills. According to researchers, poor-quality caregiving during the early years of life predisposes individuals to mental health problems and personality disorders because it interferes with the development of emotion regulation, healthy interpersonal relationships, positive self development, and the successful mastery of developmental tasks (Mikulinger & Shaver, 2007, 2012; Sroufe et al., 2000). Conversely, individuals who receive warm, sensitively-attuned, and responsive caregiving coupled with stimulating environmental experiences have better emotional regulation, better brain/cognitive/language/ social/emotional development, better mental health, healthier interpersonal relationships, greater resiliency, better academic success, and are more productive workers as adults (e.g., Grille, 2013; M & S, 2007, 2012; Heckman, 2009, Sroufe et al., 2000; Sroufe et al., 2005). As summarized by Kind (2005): “Epidemics of mental, emotional, and behavioral problems and pathology are due to poor, harmful, or deficient nurturing in the development of individuals in a society” (p. 344).

(A) Infants/Toddlers: Depression, emotionally-dysregulated behavior (e.g., “Oppositional Defiant Disorder”)

(B) Childhood: Depression, hyperactivity and inattention problems, impulsivity, poor social and emotional functioning (including poor emotional regulation), Conduct Disorder, aggression, anxiety disorders, suicidal tendencies

(C) Adolescence: Depression, inattention problems, impulsivity, poor social and emotional functioning (including poor emotional regulation), Conduct Disorder, anxiety disorders, suicidal tendencies, substance abuse, juvenile violence, aggression, destructive behavior, delinquency,
and eating disorders. Poor parenting is suggested as being the single biggest predictor of
psychopathology at age 19 (e.g., Perry, 2005)

(D) Adulthood: Bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, narcissism, disorders of intimate and sexual relationships, depression, PTSD symptoms, borderline disorder, eating disorders, dissociative symptoms, schizophrenia and other personality disorders, and suicidal tendencies

(References: Crittenden, 1995; D’Andrea, Ford, Stolback, Spinzzola, & van der Kolk, 2012; Gerhardt, 2004; Grille, 2008,
2013; Heckman, Mikulinger & Shaver, 2007, 2012; Perry, 2005; Sroufe, Duggal, Weinfield, & Carlson, 2000 Sroufe et
al., 2005; Straus, 2008; Straus & Mather, 1995; Straus & Kaufman Kantor, 1994). Cassidy & Shaver, 2010; Perry, 2005;
Straus, 2008; Straus & Mather, 1995; Straus & Kaufman-Kantor, 1994).

The following paragraphs explain the chart displayed here.

Economics (and Risk Factors) of Poor-quality Parenting Examined

By Laura Kamptner, Ph.D.

1. Cost of Foster Care:

  • $33, 515/yr (Doran, Jacobs, & Dewa, 2012).
  • $113,120 - $165,120 per family, per year under the care of social services.

2. Cost of child abuse/neglect: Costs the U.S. $124 billion each year in 2008 (CDC):

  • Direct Costs: Hospitalizations, child mental health care costs, child welfare system costs, law enforcement (Children’s Defense Fund estimates this to cost taxpayers $33.3 billion per year).
  • Indirect Costs: Special education, adult homelessness, juvenile and adult criminal justice costs, lost work productivity (Children’s Defense Fund estimates this to cost approximately $46.9 billion per year).
  • A single case/incident of nonfatal child abuse/neglect costs $210,012 over a lifetime (DeNoon, 2012).
  • Costs to investigate, prosecute, and incarcerate one offender estimated to be at least $144,000, with additional costs adding up over time when these children go untreated (Running away from home, dropping out of school, becoming involved in drug/alcohol abuse, ending up incarcerated (Holden, 2010)).

3. Cost of mental health disorders in children:

  • Around $247 billion annually in the U.S. (Stroul Et al., 2014).

4. Cost of remedial/special education:

  • Special education supplement per year per child: $15,751 (Doran, Jacobs, & Dewa, 2012).

5. Cost of SED/ nonpublic schooling:

  • $26,440 per year (vs. $5,709 per year per student in a public school setting).
  • Accounts for 11.3% or $5.3 billion per year of total special education expenditures.

6. Cost of conduct disorder to age 28 (Doran, Jacobs, & Dewa, 2012):

  • Justice system: Increased costs for policing, prosecutions, court services, prison, community sentencing. 1 incarceration: $34,875.
  • Mental health costs: More mental health services, hospitalizations.
  • Education costs: Special education supplement per year: $15,751.
  • Foster care: $33,515 per year.
  • Income support: Are more likely to end up being dependent on public assistance $13,465 per person per year.

7. Cost of high school dropouts:

  • The cost to U.S. taxpayers of a high school dropout is enormous. Approximately 1.4 million teens drop out of high school each year in the U.S. (costing taxpayers in terms of welfare dollars, lack of paying taxes, and incarceration costs).
  • Each new high school graduate saves taxpayers about $127,000 over the graduate’s lifetime (Levin & Rouse, 2012).
  • Halving the number of dropouts each year would save taxpayers $90 billion for each year, or $1 trillion after 11 years (Levin & Rouse, 2012).
  • According to the American Psychological Association (2012), over the next decade, 12 million students will drop out, costing U.S. taxpayers about $3 trillion.
  • According to a 2007 study by Teachers College, Princeton, and City University of New York researchers, taxpayers could save $209,000 in prison costs for each potential dropout who completed high school.
  • High school dropouts are more likely to become teen parents (Holden, 2010).
  • 1 high school dropout costs the nation approx. $260K (lost earnings, taxes and productivity).
  • Loss of taxes paid, health care costs, crime expenditures, welfare costs per high school dropout: $200,000 (Belfield & Levin, 2007).
  • The societal cost of dropping out of high school (and the subsequent risk of criminal behavior and drug use) for a single youth has been estimated to be $1.7 – 2.3 million (Becker, 2001).

8. Cost of juvenile delinquency/violence/aggression:

  • Increased costs for policing, prosecutions, court services, community sentencing, juvenile detention facilities.
  • Costs: $241/day. $200,000 per year per child.
  • 93,000 teens in JV in U.S. 90% of them ending back in juvenile detention or prison.
  • U.S spends more than $1B per year on juvenile justice (costs associated with juvenile justice system, property damage/loss, medical and psychological expenses (Holden, 2010).


9. Cost of teen childbearing:

  • Cost to taxpayers at least $9.4 billion each year.
  • Increased likelihood of being on public assistance, lower levels of education, health care costs, foster care, incarceration, lost tax revenue, more likely to be faced with poverty, more likely to have children with poorer education, and poorer behavioral and health outcomes.
  • Teen girls are at high risk for having premature babies. A single premature delivery can exceed $100,000 (Almond, Chay, & Lee, 2005).

10. Cost of adult unemployment/living in poverty:

  • Doesn’t pay taxes.
  • More likely to be on public assistance/depends on publicly-funded social, medical, and mental health services.
  • More likely to commit crimes. Estimated cost of juvenile delinquency and adult criminality in U.S. per year: $21.6 billion (McGroder & Hyra, 2009).
  • Poor mental health: More likely to rely on publicly-funded social, medical, and mental health services.

11. Cost of incarceration:

  • The annual cost to taxpayers of incarceration in California is currently $11.2 billion. This is more than what is spent on all levels of education per year in California.
  • Average annual cost to incarcerate a person per year: $35,000- $50,000.
  • In 2008: 2.3 million Americans were in prison or jail (Schmitt, Warner, & Gupta, 2010).
  • Cost per year in U.S.: $80.5 billion – $115 billion).