Talking or Keeping Silent About Parental Mental Health Problems-A Grounded Theory of Parents' Decision Making and Experiences with Their Children

Lizette Nolte, Bernadette Wren
  • Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, June 2016, Wiley
  • DOI: 10.1111/jmft.12177

What is it about?

This grounded theory study explored parents' experiences of responding to their children's need for understanding parental mental health concerns. Fifteen parents with severe and enduring mental health difficulties participated in the study. The findings suggest four main social processes that influence parents' talk with their children about parental mental health issues, namely “Protecting and being protected,” “Responding to children's search for understanding,” “Prioritizing family life,” and “Relating to others.” Implications of the findings for clinical practice and future research are considered. In particular, the need for more family-orientated services where parents experience parental mental health problems is highlighted.

Why is it important?

Many interventions for children of parents with mental health concerns aim to help children understand and make sense of their experiences related to their parents' mental health problems. However, we know that children often do not receive formal help from services - therefore it is important to understand more fully how parents themselves think about and respond to their children's need for understanding. This can help us better support parents themselves in this process.


Dr Lizette Nolte (Author)
University of Hertfordshire

As a clinical psychologist working from a systemic and narrative perspective with families where a parent experiences mental health concerns, this research was very important to me. I have been concerned about how often family members around the parent with mental health concerns are not considered by services in their interventions. I have also been concerned about how parents themselves are often marginalised in the support of children. The findings of this study can contribute the addressing these concerns.

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The following have contributed to this page: Dr Lizette Nolte