For children who grow up in the care of a mentally ill parent, life is often filled with anxiety, uncertainty and vigilance. It is not unusual for their needs to be neglected — and they may even have to “compete” with their parent’s symptoms in order to receive care themselves. It also poses risk factors for issues that can emerge later in life, including emotional and psychological disturbances, learning challenges, and poorer overall functioning. In addition, there are a host of social challenges that these children may encounter, such as social rejection, troubled relationships, marital problems, and family dissolution.
What are the core experiences for people who have been raised by a parent with mental illness? In a study led by psychologist Lynne McCormack of the University of Newcastle, she and her team interviewed adult children of an unwell parent, ranging from depressionto schizoaffective disorder. They then analyzed the transcripts to see what salient themes would surface. The collaborators found an overarching theme — a fractured journey of growth to adulthood — which broke down into six core experiences. The following is a digest of their results.