Families of psychiatric patients: a critical review and future research directions

Arch Psychiatr Nurs. 1996 Apr;10(2):67-76. doi: 10.1016/s0883-9417(96)80069-0.


It is generally acknowledged that mental illness creates burdens for family caregivers. Since the 1950s, medical literature has identified the type and extent of those burdens, especially for families of patients with schizophrenia. Whereas the imperative to identify interventions for these families is clear, there has been a lack of systematic research of families' responses to and management of mental illness, resulting in significant gaps in knowledge. The rapidly changing health-care environment suggests that our understanding of families' responses to mental illness need to be reexamined for current relevance and new insights. This article critically examines the research to date and identifies gaps in knowledge related to family experience of mental illness. It argues the need to continue studies of caregiver burden and the stress resulting from that burden. Future directions for research are suggested.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Caregivers / psychology*
  • Cost of Illness*
  • Family / psychology*
  • Forecasting
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / nursing
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Nursing Research
  • Schizophrenia / nursing
  • Schizophrenic Psychology