The study expands the literature on parents’ mental health and risk of poor parenting by exploring the association between parental mental health diagnoses and types of child maltreatment among 522 parents who were adjudicated for child maltreatment by Israeli courts. The study was cross-sectional and used a manual for the content analysis of court cases. The results showed that 62% of the parents suffered from mental health problems, including emotional problems, personality disorders, mental illness or intellectual disability. Child neglect was associated with all types of mental health diagnoses for both the mothers and fathers. However, child abuse and specifically physical abuse were associated only with the mother’s mental health diagnoses. The mother’s mental illness and personality disorder predicted child neglect and the mother’s personality disorder predicted child abuse, after controlling for poverty, child’s intellectual disability and age. No mental health diagnosis of the father predicted child maltreatment. The study concluded that the effect of mental health condition is greater for mothers. A mother’s personality disorder and mental illness should raise a special concern. Screening for maternal mental health in every case involved in the child welfare system and implications of the findings for prevention of child maltreatment are discussed.
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