The understanding and experiences of children affected by parental mental health problems: a qualitative study

Nicola Cogan, Sheila Riddell, Gillian Mayes

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13 Citations (Scopus)


Children of parents with mental health problems (MHPs) have been reported to be 'at risk' of diagnosable psychopathology, as well as impairment in cognitive, emotional, social and school functioning. How children understand MHPs has been found to influence how they cope with their family situation. This study explores the understanding and experiences of children affected by parental MHPs (affected children). Comparisons are drawn with the perspectives of children of 'well' parents (comparative children), using a semi-structured interview schedule. The qualitative data were managed using the NUD*IST computer package and analysed using the Huberman and Miles (1994) interactive model. Analysis revealed that affected children were found to be less likely to convey stigmatizing views of people with MHPs, largely due to their personal experience of living with parental MHPs, than comparative children. These results have implications for the development of effective health promotion programmes and specialist interventions for children 'at risk' of adversity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-66
Number of pages20
JournalQualitative Research in Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2005


  • children
  • mental health problems
  • parent
  • qualitative
  • resilience
  • understanding

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