A child’s perspective of bidirectional impacts of mental illness in families: “It’s like a cold it goes from one of us to the next”

Michael Frederick Naughton, Darryl Maybery, Melinda Goodyear


Objective: Investigations into the influence of mental illness in families concentrates on how a parent’s mental illness has an effect on their child, but we now know over two thirds of children with a mental health issue also have a parent with a mental illness. This study examines experiences of these children.
Methods: Thirty-eight children were interviewed, including two sibling groups. Interview transcripts were analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis with a number of themes identified.
Results: It was clear from children’s accounts that family life presents some unique challenges because of co-existing mental illness. These included social challenges; school issues; and family interactions. Children also postulated ideas on the support that they considered helpful for comparable children and families. The latter included coping strategies, experiences of professionals and support that they would have liked.
Conclusions: The voices of these children indicate that interventions should not be considered in isolation and that it is important to focus on bidirectional influences of mental illness. Understanding the perceptions and interpreted realities of children in these families will facilitate more successful outcomes for the whole family. Providing a family-focused, bidirectional approach, is an important initial phase in helping children manage where mental illness is a ubiquitous feature for multiple family members.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5430/cns.v7n2p8


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Clinical Nursing Studies
ISSN 2324-7940(Print)   ISSN 2324-7959(Online)

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