SCIE Research briefing 29: Black and minority ethnic parents with mental health problems and their children

By Ruby Greene, Richard Pugh and Diane Roberts

Published September 2008


For the purpose of this briefing, black and minority ethnic (BME) groups in the United Kingdom include people from Black African, African–Caribbean, South Asian, and Chinese heritage. These also include other white and non-white minority groups whose cultural heritage differs from that of the majority population. This briefing covers research that helps to understand the experiences of BME families where one or both parents have severe or enduring mental health problems and where children are under the age of 18. The briefing does not include older people (those aged 65 and over), dementia, detailed evaluations of services and interventions, or experiences of particular services.

While there are some valuable studies into the effects of parental mental health problems upon their children, the amount of directly relevant research is rather limited and coverage of different minority groups is patchy. However, it is possible to generalise from the greater body of research into mental health problems in BME communities, where this establishes the wider context and where the findings may reasonably be taken as being relevant to the circumstances of BME parents with mental health problems.

Key messages

  • Black and minority ethnic (BME) parents with mental health problems are likely to experience poverty, unemployment, and homelessness.
  • Some common family structures, such as lone parenting, can increase the risks arising from isolation and lack of support for both parents and their children.
  • People from BME communities are poorly served by mental health services.
  • BME parents with mental health problems are often reluctant to use existing services because these are often not culturally sensitive to their needs.
  • Reluctance to access services may result in mental health problems becoming more severe before diagnosis, treatment and support is obtained.
  • Mental health problems among BME parents, compounded by lack of treatment and support, can have enduring effects upon their children and contribute to their over-representation in the child care system.


All SCIE resources are free to download, however to access the following download you will need a free MySCIE account:

Available downloads:

  • Black and minority ethnic parents with mental health problems and their children