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Risk factors for children's mental health issues

As with adults, the causes of mental health issues in children are complex and affected by biological, psychological and social factors. Any one of these factors can have either a positive or negative influence on a child’s mental health.

Consider how these factors might interrelate with a child.

(NSW Police Legacy, 2019)

Put mental health in context

It is important to put a child’s mental health issues in the context of what else is happening. Consider the risk and protective factors for childhood mental health issues in the diagram below. The more risk factors present, the more likely the child will develop a mental health issue.

Source: KidsMatter

Practice prompt


  • What risk factors might be contributing to the child’s mental health problem?
  • How can the problems this child is experiencing be located in their social world, rather than with them as a person?
  • What can help the family make changes to reduce the risk of a child developing mental health issues, or issues getting worse?
  • What protective factors might be contributing to this child staying healthy?
  • How can work with the family build on these protective factors to improve a child’s wellbeing?

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