“Do not talk about that stuff”: Experiences of Australian youth living with a veteran parent with PTSD

Violette E. McGraw, Andrea E. Reupert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Numerous studies have highlighted the often adverse impact of parental posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) on children of veteran parents. However, there have been very few studies exploring the interpreted perspectives of these children regarding growing up with their parent’s illness. This study sought to explore the real-time experiences of Australian youth who have a veteran parent diagnosed with PTSD with the intent to inform clinicians, services, and policymakers. Within a qualitative research design, 8 young people aged 12 to 17 years participated in individual, semistructured interviews. Transcripts were analyzed using interpretive phenomenological analysis. One superordinate theme, “Growing in Silence,” overarched 4 subordinate themes: “taking care”; “self-reliance”; “a family disconnected”; and “our family”. An intergenerational transference of silence or avoidance around mental illness and help-seeking was identified. Youth described being mindful of parents’ stress, rarely turning to others when times were stressful, and being protective of their family while at the same time describing a family disengaged. Though motivated to support their parents, these young people were ambivalent about seeking support for themselves. Implications of findings suggest some youth may not seek the support of parents, family, or peers. To break the intergenerational silence, clinicians might support parents to foster open communication. This might provide a means of identifying long-term potential mental health issues in these youth.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages7
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021


  • military youth
  • parental mental health
  • young carers
  • qualitative
  • PTSD

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