Coping with the dual demands of severe mental illness and parenting: The parents' perspective

Barry Ackerson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The experience of parenthood by individuals with severe mental illness has not been well studied. Research on mentally ill parents has focused on their pathology and the potential risk for their children without considering the parents' perspective. This qualitative study used interviews to explore how these parents coped with the dual demands of parenthood and their illness. Participants included individuals whose children are now young adults as well as those with younger children. Themes that emerged were problems with diagnosis and treatment, stigma, chaotic interpersonal relationships, the strain of single parenthood, custody issues, relationship with children, social support, and pride in being a parent. Follow-up interviews focused on the themes of relationship with children, strain of single parenthood, and sources of support. Relationship with children contained three specific topics: discipline, boundary issues, and role reversal. Implications for practice are discussed along with recommendations for future research involving other family members.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)109-118
Number of pages10
JournalFamilies in Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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