Family resilience in families where a parent has a mental illness

Jennifer Power, Melinda Goodyear, Darryl Maybery, Andrea Reupert, Brendan O'Hanlon, Rose Cuff, Amaryll Perlesz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


Summary: This study explores the concept of family resilience where a parent has a mental illness. Eleven Australian adults who have grown up in a household with a parent who had a diagnosed mental illness participated in an in-depth interview. The interviews focused on the ways in which these families responded to challenges in everyday life, particularly related to parental mental illness. Findings: Families developed resilience through processes such as shared humour or regular family rituals and routines. In some cases, open communication about mental illness enabled families to better cope when parents were unwell and to build a greater sense of family connectedness. However, data suggest that parental mental illness potentially creates stress and confusion for families and there are multiple social and cultural barriers that make it difficult for families to acknowledge and speak openly about mental illness. For participants, resilience tended to be about maintaining a balance between stress/distress and optimism and strength within their family. Applications: The article highlights the importance of family context when describing resilience, and identifies specific clinical implications for working with families affected by parental mental illness.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)66-82
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Social Work
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • social work
  • children and families
  • family support
  • mental health
  • parenting
  • resilience

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