Children's understanding of mental ill health: implications for risk and resilience in relationships

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Research shows that having a parent with a mental health problem has associated risks for children, but some families seem very resilient and do not always suffer these difficulties. In order for social workers to be able to support the development of resilience in families who appear to be at risk, we need to understand what factors may ameliorate some of these risks. Research seems to suggest that children who can conceptualize their parent's mental health problem as something ‘outside’ their representation of that parent as an attachment figure are likely to have better outcomes than children who see the mental-health problem as part of, and embedded within, their representation of that parent. However, in order to develop an understanding of how this conceptualization affects attachment relationships and outcomes, we need to know what children understand by mental ill health. We also need to consider how this conceptualization might be changed, and it appears that parents, other attachment figures and other support figures may play a key role here. This paper provides a selective review of the research area and discusses the mechanisms which may govern this complex process. The review concludes with recommendations for future research and practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-122
Number of pages8
JournalChild and Family Social Work
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2009

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