SCIE Research briefing 23: Stress and resilience factors in parents with mental health problems and their children

By Lester Parrott, Gaby Jacobs and Diane Roberts

Published March 2008


This briefing focuses on factors contributing to either stress or resilience in families where one or both parents have mental health problems. It considers the position of parents and children focusing upon issues of stress or resilience arising from individual and ‘informal’ sources. While recognising the role that services have in mediating either stress or resilience, the briefing does not consider service interventions or evaluations, as these are the subject of a SCIE systematic review to be published separately.

Key messages

  • Over one third of all UK adults with mental health problems are parents. Most parents with mental health problems parent their children effectively.
  • Two million children are estimated to live in households where at least one parent has a mental health problem but less than one quarter of these adults is in work.
  • Children’s resilience is enhanced by a secure and reliable family base in which relationships promote self-esteem, self-efficacy and a sense of control.
  • A parent’s resilience is enhanced by family (particularly children’s) understanding, satisfying employment, good physical health and professional, community and personal support.
  • Potential stressors leading to parental mental health problems include a lack of money; breakdowns in valued relationships, bereavement, loss of control at work and long working hours.
  • For children, stress factors include loss through bereavement, marital breakdown or illness, acting as a carer, being bullied at school, homelessness and poverty.


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