Family dynamics of families with mental health problems in Finland


Marita Paunonen, University of Tampere, Department of Nursing Science, Box 607, FIN-33101 Tampere, Finland.


This study forms part of the International Family Dynamics Project. Its purpose was describe the family functioning of families with mental health problems on the basis of Barnhill's framework for healthy family systems. The sample consisted of 160 families in which one family member had mental health problems. Both the patients and their relatives took part. The data were collected by questionnaires, i.e. The Family Dynamics Measure and The Family Dynamics Questionnaire. According to the results, mental health patients described family functioning as fairly poor, while relatives described it as fairly good. However, patients' and relatives' perceptions of family functioning did not differ significantly. There were some statistically significant differences between patients' and relatives' perceptions of different family dynamics dimensions. Relatives reported more mutuality (P= 0.006) and clearer communication (P= 0.009) than patients. Older mental health patients reported more isolation than patients under 30. Relatives who mentioned some serious illness in the family reported more role conflict than those who didnt. No differences were found by gender, family structure or education. The results indicated that the mental health problems of a single family member did not impair family dynamics. The study showed that the resources and functioning of families are fairly good in spite of the illness in the family.