Mothers with mental illness: I. The competing demands of parenting and living with mental illness

Psychiatr Serv. 1998 May;49(5):635-42. doi: 10.1176/ps.49.5.635.


Objective: The purpose of this study is to understand the parenting experiences of women with mental illness from the perspectives of mothers and case managers employed by the state department of mental health.

Methods: Six focus groups of mothers and five focus groups of case managers met to discuss the problems facing mothers with mental illness and to recommend solutions. Focus-group transcripts were coded and items grouped by themes in qualitative analyses to explore the conflicts mothers face in meeting the dual challenges of parenting and living with mental illness.

Results: Mothers and case managers identified sources of conflict in four thematic categories: the stigma of mental illness, day-to-day parenting, managing mental illness, and custody of and contact with children.

Conclusions: Many of the issues of mothers with mental illness are generic to all parents; others are specific to the situation of living with mental illness. Mothers with mental illness must play a role in developing standards for clinical care and the research agenda in this area.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • Case Management
  • Child
  • Child Custody
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Massachusetts
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Mental Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Middle Aged
  • Mood Disorders / psychology
  • Mood Disorders / rehabilitation
  • Mother-Child Relations
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Parenting / psychology*
  • Stereotyping