Needs, expectations and consequences for children growing up in a family where the parent has a mental illness

Int J Ment Health Nurs. 2016 Aug;25(4):319-29. doi: 10.1111/inm.12194. Epub 2016 Jun 9.


The lack of pan-European guidelines for empowering children of parents with mental illness led to the EU project CAMILLE - Empowerment of Children and Adolescents of Mentally Ill Parents through Training of Professionals working with children and adolescents. The aim of this initial task in the project was to analyse needs, expectations and consequences for children with respect to living with a parent with mental illness from the perspective of professionals and family members. This qualitative research was conducted in England, Finland, Germany, Italy, Norway, Poland and Scotland with 96 professionals, parents with mental illness, adult children and partners of parents with mental illness. A framework analysis method was used. Results of the study highlighted that the main consequences described for children of parental mental illness were role reversal; emotional and behavioural problems; lack of parent's attention and stigma. The main needs of these children were described as emotional support, security and multidisciplinary help. Implications for practice are that professionals working with parents with mental illness should be aware of the specific consequences for the children and encourage parents in their parental role; multi-agency collaboration is necessary; schools should provide counselling and prevent stigma.

Keywords: child development; family; mental illness; parenting; qualitative research.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child of Impaired Parents / psychology*
  • Europe
  • Focus Groups
  • Health Services Needs and Demand*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Parent-Child Relations
  • Role
  • Stereotyping