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How Do Children Make Sense of their Parent's Mental Health Difficulties: A Meta-Synthesis

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>19/06/2018
<mark>Journal</mark>Journal of Child and Family Studies
Issue number9
Volume27
Number of pages10
Pages (from-to)2705–2716
Publication statusPublished
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Children of parents who experience mental health difficulties (COPE-MHD) consistently demonstrate numerous negative outcomes, including risks of intergenerational continuity of mental health difficulties (MHD). Numerous studies have analysed the experiences and understanding of parents’ MHD from the perspective of COPE-MHD. This metasynthesis aims to capture, across available literature, the way in which COPE-MHD make sense of their parent’s MHD and how this perception impacts their life. For inclusion in the review, research articles were required to be published in peer-reviewed journals, apply qualitative methods of data collection and analysis and report on the direct accounts of COPE-MHD regarding their understanding or experience of their parents’ MHD. Five electronic databases were used; Academic Search Complete, CINAHL, MEDLINE, PsycINFO and Child Development and Adolescent Studies. Fourteen studies were included. Analysis produced three overarching themes. The findings illustrate children’s sophisticated biopsychosocial conceptualisation of the cause and process of their parent’s MHD. It also highlights how they utilise this understanding to manage the day-to-day concerns associated with their parent’s experience of MHD. Clinical implications highlight a need for services working with children, parents and families to more frequently enquire about parents’ MHD and to consider the outcomes of such enquiry in the psychological formulation of children and young peoples’ mental health and development. Limitations and recommendations for future research are presented.