Emerging Adults’ Perspectives on Their Relationships With Mothers With Mental Illness: Implications for Caregiving


  • The writing of this article was supported by the Office of Academic Affiliations, Advanced Fellowship Program in Mental Illness Research and Treatment, Department of Veterans Affairs. The research is based, in part, on the first author’s dissertation that was supported by a Dissertation Fellowship awarded by the Department of Psychology and Graduate College at Bowling Green State University.

concerning this article should be addressed to Kristen Abraham, VA CCMR/VA National SMITREC, University of Michigan North Campus Research Complex, 2800 Plymouth Road, Building 14, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2800. Electronic mail may be sent to krabraha@umich.edu.


Guided by a life course perspective, the current study examined whether emerging adults with and without mothers with affective disorders viewed their relationships with their mothers differently, and whether aspects of the emerging adult-mother relationship were associated with reports of caregiving for mothers. Reports from emerging adults with mothers with affective disorders (n = 46) were compared to reports from emerging adults with mothers without mental illness (n = 64). Results indicated that emerging adults with mothers with affective disorders reported significantly lower levels of affection, felt obligation, reciprocity, and future caregiving intentions, and significantly higher levels of role reversal in their relationships with their mothers. Reported current caregiving levels did not differ between emerging adults with and without mothers with affective disorders. Hierarchical multiple regression analyses generally indicated higher levels of felt obligation were associated with higher levels of caregiving, regardless of maternal mental health status. Results and future research directions are discussed from a life course perspective.