Family support in children's mental health: a review and synthesis

Clin Child Fam Psychol Rev. 2010 Mar;13(1):1-45. doi: 10.1007/s10567-009-0060-5.


A comprehensive review of structured family support programs in children's mental health was conducted in collaboration with leadership from key national family organizations. The goals were to identify typologies of family support services for which evaluation data existed and identify research gaps. Over 200 programs were examined; 50 met criteria for inclusion. Programs were categorized by whether they were delivered by peer family members, clinicians, or teams. Five salient components of family support were identified: (a) informational, (b) instructional, (c) emotional, (d) instrumental, and (e) advocacy. Clinician-led programs were heavily represented (n = 33, 66%), followed by family-led (n = 11, 22%), and team-delivered (n = 6, 12%) programs. Key differences between programs delivered by clinicians or by peer family members were found in the degree of emphasis, research methodology, and outcomes. However, the content of the components was similar across all three program types. There are both important differences in emphasis across typologies of family support provided by clinicians, family members, or teams as well as important similarities in content. Family-delivered support may be an important adjunct to existing services for parents, although the research base remains thin. A research agenda to promote more rigorous evaluations of these services especially those delivered by peer family members is critical.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child Health Services / organization & administration*
  • Family / psychology*
  • Health Policy
  • Health Services Research
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Mental Disorders / therapy
  • Mental Health Services / organization & administration*
  • Mental Health*
  • Parents / psychology
  • United States