Regular Articles

The journal of mental health administration

, Volume 22, Issue 2, pp 189-200

First online:

Parenting and the significance of children for women with a serious mental illness

  • Carol T. MowbrayAffiliated withSchool of Social Work, University of Michigan
  • , Daphna OysermanAffiliated withMerrill-Palmer Institute at Wayne State University
  • , Scott RossAffiliated withPsychology Department at Wayne State University

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Increased time in the community has made developmental life tasks of adulthood more relevant to individuals with severe mental illness (SMI). Parenting and motherhood are thus important areas of study, since it has been established that women with SMI are likely to have children. Previous research has concentrated primarily on the deleterious effects on the child of having a mentally ill parent. Mothers' capabilities or problems in parenting and the meaning of motherhood from the women's perspective have received limited attention. In the present interview study of 24 mothers with mental illness, satisfaction and self-reported competency in parenting were found to be high, although significant economic and some support problems were reported. Women described the meaning of children and the significance of the parenting role, yet realistically portrayed their concerns over discipline and the effects their problems have. Implications for mental health services are discussed.