Chinese mothers’ experiences of family life when they have a mental illness: a qualitative systematic review

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10 Citations (Scopus)


The challenges experienced by families in western countries, where a parent has a mental illness, are well established. However, research documenting the experiences of Chinese families with parental mental illness appears limited. This study aimed to systematically review qualitative research about the experiences of families, living in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan, where parents have a mental illness. Eight databases were comprehensively searched, along with manual search of reference lists. The identified studies were critically appraised and analysed using a thematic synthesis approach. Ten papers were identified, with nine investigating mothers’ experiences, one focusing on children’s experiences, and none reporting on fathers’ experiences. Subsequently, only papers presenting mothers’ experiences were included for thematic synthesis. Five primary themes were identified including managing parenting in the context of mental illness; failure to meet one’s expectations of motherhood; being burdened by others’ expectations; stigma from self, others and service providers; and support obtained and needed. Similar to western mothers, Chinese mothers struggled to balance the demands of parenting and their illness, and experienced stigma associated with being a parent with a mental illness. Western and Chinese mothers’ experiences differ in regard to the influence of parents-in-law and the division of domestic labour. Future research might investigate Chinese mothers with various mental health diagnoses, the perspectives of Chinese fathers with a mental illness, and the children in these families.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)368-381
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Mental Health Nursing
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021


  • Chinese
  • mental health
  • parenting
  • qualitative research
  • systematic review

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