An online intervention for vulnerable young adults: identifying mechanisms of change using a grounded theory approach

Andrea E. Reupert, Darryl Maybery, Catherine Bartholomew, Rose Cuff, Jodie Matar, Laura Pettenuzzo, Kim Foster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Purpose: The purpose of this study is to qualitatively identify the mechanisms of change as young adults, whose parents have a mental illness and/or substance use issue, navigate their way through a 6-week, moderated online intervention. Methods: Using a qualitative, grounded theory approach, data were collected and triangulated for analysis from participants before, during, and after engaging in the intervention. First, 31 young people’s motivations for enrolling in the intervention were identified from one open ended question on an online survey. Second, online chat sessions were analysed to identify those topics the 31 participants engaged in throughout the intervention. Finally, 19 interviews were conducted 2 weeks post-intervention, to ascertain participants’ perceptions of the impacts of the intervention and how the intervention promoted changes. Results: The main storyline was that of participants “making sense” of their parents, themselves and other relationships, in collaboration with peers, in a safe online space. This storyline of “making sense” drove their motivation to join the intervention and was the focus of the online chats. After the intervention, some were closer to having “made sense” of their families while others struggled differentiating themselves away from their families. An anonymous, professionally moderated online site afforded participants opportunities to think about who they were and for some, who they wanted to be. Conclusion: Generating an explanatory theory of how vulnerable young people navigate their way through an online intervention provides important information that can be used to inform future services, interventions, and research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)293-303
Number of pages11
JournalSocial Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Mental illness
  • Online intervention
  • Parents
  • Substance use problem
  • Young adults

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