Aims and objectives. This article presents a qualitative meta-synthesis that explores the experiences of adult children of parents with a mental illness.
Background. There has been growing interest in the experiences of children whose parents have mental illness. However, little literature explores the experiences of adult children.
Design. Qualitative meta-synthesis.
Method. A review of English language literature search engines was undertaken and identified 905 relevant articles. Articles were excluded if they used quantitative methodology, had other methodological issues or had a focus on parental drug/alcohol issues. Twelve articles were identified as using qualitative or mixed methods studies, which were reviewed using the Critical Appraisal Skills Programme (Public Health Resource Unit 2006). Following this, seven studies were included in the meta-synthesis. The main findings and themes identified by the original study authors were extracted from the results and discussions sections and further categorised into four main themes using content analysis methods.
Results. There were 26 themes identified by the meta-synthesis, which were collated into four wider categories and concepts. Issues related to family relationships, external familial relationship changes, the adult child’s emotional reflections and illness-related concepts were identified.
Conclusions. There is a paucity of qualitative research that considers adult children’s experiences of parental mental illness. In the available studies, issues related to family relationships, external familial wider relationship changes, the adult child’s emotional reflections and illness-related concepts were identified as being of concern to adults who experienced parental mental illness during childhood.
Relevance to clinical practice. There is a need for all health and social care services to be aware of the experiences/needs of adult children who have experienced parental mental illness. Adult children of parents with mental illnesses should be provided with opportunities to discuss their stories to validate their experiences.