When Mom has a Mental Illness: Role Reversal and Psychosocial Adjustment Among Emerging Adults

Authors


  • This research is partially based on the first author's dissertation, which was supported by a Dissertation Fellowship awarded by the Department of Psychology and Graduate College at Bowling Green State University. Writing of this manuscript was supported by the Office of Academic Affiliations, Advanced Fellowship Program in Mental Illness Research and Treatment, Department of Veterans Affairs.

Please address correspondence to: Kristen Abraham, 2800 Plymouth Road, University of Michigan North Campus Research Complex, Building 16, Floor 2- VA CCMR/SMITREC, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2800. E-mail: abraham.kristen@gmail.com

Abstract

Objective

Guided by a life course perspective, the present study examined whether aspects of the emerging adult-mother relationship, specifically affection, felt obligation, role reversal, and reciprocity, mediated the association between having a mother with mental illness and poorer psychological adjustment.

Method

Emerging adults with mothers with mental illness (n = 52) and emerging adults without mothers with mental illness (n = 64) were recruited from institutes of higher education and responded to an online self-report questionnaire. Most participants (81%) were female.

Results

Results from multiple mediation analyses indicated a history of parent-child role reversal mediated the association between having a mother with mental illness and emerging adults’ psychological symptoms. None of the assessed aspects of the emerging adult-mother relationship mediated the association between maternal mental illness and emerging adults’ psychological well-being, but having divorced parents and being older was associated with lower levels of psychological well-being.

Conclusions

Findings indicate role reversal contributes to emerging adults’ psychological symptoms. Assessment of a history of role reversal may be relevant to clinical practice with emerging adults, particularly those with mothers with mental illness. Life course perspectives can inform future studies of emerging adults with mothers with mental illness.

Ancillary