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Title: Parents' communication to their primary school-aged children about mental health and ill-health
Author: Mueller, J.
ISNI:       0000 0004 2729 3835
Awarding Body: Canterbury Christ Church University
Current Institution: Canterbury Christ Church University
Date of Award: 2012
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Although it is understood that stigma about mental ill-health emerges in middle childhood, and that parental communications are highly influential in children’s developing attitudes, almost nothing is known about the messages parents communicate to young children about mental health problems and how these might contribute to the perpetuation of stigma. This study aimed to address this gap in the literature by exploring parents' communications to their primary-school aged children around mental health and ill-health. Semi structured interviews were carried out with ten parents of children aged 7-11. Data collection and analysis was performed according to a Grounded Theory approach; a theoretical model was developed. The model highlights factors that govern parents’ communications to children about mental health issues, and the impact of this on communication purpose and approach. Parents’ communications were governed by the extent to which parents’ representations of ‘Them’ (mental illness) and ‘Us’ (mental health) overlapped or remained distinct. Communications about mental health were deliberate, comfortable, and aimed to promote child wellbeing, whilst unconscious processes driven by taboo meant communications about mental illness were characterized by avoidance, awkwardness, and ambivalence. Factors such as parent experiences, communication context, and child characteristics, fluidly influenced parents’ overlap of ‘Them’ and ‘Us’, and hence the purpose and approach of their communications to their children. Parents’ context-dependent conceptualizations of mental health and ill-health mean children are receiving complex verbal and non-verbal messages from parents, which may contribute to children’s development of stigmatized views via conscious and unconscious processes. Interventions and policy that harness parents’ existing understandings of mental wellbeing to promote a spectrum model of mental health and ill-health may lead to more open parent-child communication, increased help-seeking, and reduced stigma.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.Clin.Psy.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: BF0721 Child psychology ; HM1041 Social perception. Social cognition ; HQ0755.7 Parents. Parenthood ; RC0512 Psychopathology. Mental disorders