Diversity of outcomes among adolescent children of mothers with mental illness

Carol T. Mowbray, Deborah Bybee, Daphna Oyserman, Paula Allen-Meares, Peter MacFarlane, Tamera Hart-Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Children of parents with mental illness are an at-risk population according to research on psychiatric outcomes using White, middle-class samples of depressed parents and infants and preschool children. The current study expands this evidence by exploring within-group heterogeneity across psychosocial outcomes, in a racially diverse, low-income sample of adolescent children of mothers with mental illness (N = 166). Using measures of mental health, academics, behavior problems, and social relationships - and employing cluster analysis methodology - we identified five meaningful subgroups of these youth. Two of five identified clusters evidenced mental health symptoms (15%) or possible behavioral problems (27%). The largest cluster (30%) appeared quite socially and academically competent; another cluster (22%) presented as average in their functioning but adult-oriented. A final small cluster (4.8%) was distinguished by members' social isolation. Cluster membership related to maternal substance abuse history, father's relationship to youth, and social support available to mothers. Implications for planning preventive interventions are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)206-221
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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