Growing up with a parent with mental ill health: making sense of the experience through the reflection of adult offspring

Blake-Holmes, Kate (2018) Growing up with a parent with mental ill health: making sense of the experience through the reflection of adult offspring. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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This thesis reports a qualitative study undertaken to explore the experiences of adults who grew up with a parent with a severe and enduring mental ill health. It fills a significant gap in the research literature in that it examines an experience that has been previously underexplored. It also provides a lifespan perspective, which gives insight into the impact on the individual and their understanding of their experiences through childhood and into their adult life.

The study uses a biographical method in order to elicit rich narratives from 20 individuals. When analysed through a combination of narrative and thematic methods, these narratives give insight into lived experiences and reveal how perceptions and needs shift throughout childhood and into adulthood.

Participants spoke of a sense of vulnerability, which threaded through the course of their lives influencing, and at times, defining significant points such as going to school, leaving home and becoming a parent. This vulnerability affected their relationships both within their family and with the world around them. Constructing an identity for themselves, participants developed a projected self that appeared competent, compliant and resilient. However, at times, this was built upon a flawed model of understanding and emotion, which is developed here into a model of acquiescence, within which the individual’s needs are subjugated in response to others.

Participants did not regret remaining with their ill parent, but were frustrated that while they had been very involved in their parent’s illness, their needs had not been considered nor had they been included in the care planning for their parent in a meaningful or genuine manner. Thus, support for children growing up with a parent with mental ill health needs to be readily accessible and responsive to their individual needs throughout not only childhood, but also continuing into adulthood.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Social Sciences > School of Social Work
Depositing User: Bruce Beckett
Date Deposited: 23 Jul 2018 13:06
Last Modified: 23 Jul 2018 13:06


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