» Beyond the familial transmission of problems, we can now show that psychotherapy has positive effects across generations – from parents to children and vice versa! «

Prof. Dr. Silvia Schneider

Familial transmission

Transgenerational interventions

Mental disorders run in families. While the effects of mental disorders on members of a family are well studied, there is little research on the effects of successful treatment of a mental disorder on family members. Our research group is studying the effects of successful psychotherapy on family members, from parent to child ("top-down") and from child to parent ("bottom-up"). In dismantling studies, we also seek to identify the role of family member involvement, particularly parent participation, on successful psychotherapy.



Principal Investigator and Team

Prof. Dr. Silvia Schneider
Dr. Kerstin Konietzny
Dr. Omar Chehadi
Dipl. Psych. Angela Köster
Dr. Verena Pflug


Faculty of Psychology, Ruhr-University Bochum, Prof. Dr. Maike Luhmann and Prof. Dr. Jürgen Margraf

Faculty of Psychology, Ruhr-University Bochum, Prof. Dr. Robert Kumsta
Department of General Medicine, Ruhr-University Bochum, Prof. Dr. Horst Christian Vollmar

Institute of General Medicine, Hospital of the Ludwig-Maximilians-University (LMU) Munich, Prof. Dr. Jochen Gensichen

Deaprtment of Health Economics and Health Services Research at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Prof. Dr. Hans-Helmut König, Dr. Christian Brettschneider

Institute of General Medicine, Universitätsklinikum Essen, Martina Heßbrügge


Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Funding number 01EE1801A)


Since June 2019


Since 2014, Germany has received more than 1.3 million refugees, including many young children. Among refugees, mental health problems are highly prevalent. Approximately more than 50% of the refugees who fled armed conflicts are affected by mental health problems, such as depression or anxiety. Parental mental health problems as well as an unfavorable parenting style are major risk factors for children to develop mental health problems as well. To avoid a public-health tragedy and to maximize healthy development as well as integration into German society, low threshold and cost-effective interventions for refugee families with young children are needed within the primary care system. Given that effective early interventions yield the highest return on investment, our primary goal is to minimize mental health problems in refugees and to prevent their development in their children by addressing parental psychopathology as well as by improving parenting skills. For this purpose, we will provide and evaluate the IMPROVE program, a low threshold, primary care-based treatment and prevention program, for refugee families and their young children (0-6 years). Using culturally sensitive approaches, we will directly target the major access point into the German health care system (general practitioners), and address a group at high risk of developing mental disorders: Children of parents with mental health problems. Specifically, parents with mental health problems will receive the IMPROVE program via general practitioners, including a short treatment to deal with symptoms of anxiety and depression as well as an online training to promote a positive parenting style and accompanying phone calls with a psychologist. To examine the effects of the IMPROVE program, compared to a treatment as usual, parents are invited to take part in interviews on mental health outcomes and fill in questionnaires. It is hypothesized, that the IMPROVE intervention is superior to a treatment as usual, regarding the parental mental health as well as the long-term health of their child.