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18-06-2015 | Original Paper | Uitgave 2/2016

Journal of Child and Family Studies 2/2016

The Experience of Being the Parent of an Adolescent with a Diagnosis of Depression

Journal of Child and Family Studies > Uitgave 2/2016
Emily Stapley, Nick Midgley, Mary Target


Although there is a growing research literature exploring the experience of being the parent of an adolescent with mental health issues, there is little looking specifically at parents of adolescents suffering from depression. This is surprising given that adolescence is a period of development associated with significant risk for the onset of severe depression. The aim of our study was to qualitatively examine the experience of being the parent of an adolescent (aged 11–17) who had recently been referred to child and adolescent mental health services in the United Kingdom and diagnosed with moderate to severe depression. Semistructured interviews were conducted with 48 parents. A thematic analysis revealed four main themes: parents’ ‘lack of awareness’ that their child was experiencing depression or that their child was experiencing any problem at all; the ‘emotional turmoil’ that parents were experiencing alongside that of their child; parents’ feelings of ‘helplessness’; and ‘parenting in overdrive’. Overall, the findings of our study indicate that the strain and stress that can be experienced by parents of adolescents with a diagnosis of depression, at the outset of their child’s treatment, is significant. Moreover, these parents’ experiences are comparable to those of parents of adolescents diagnosed with such disorders as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or eating disorders.

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