Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 25, Issue 2, pp 618–630 | Cite as

The Experience of Being the Parent of an Adolescent with a Diagnosis of Depression

  • Emily StapleyEmail author
  • Nick Midgley
  • Mary Target
Original Paper


Although there is a growing research literature exploring the experience of being the parent of an adolescent with mental health issues, there is little looking specifically at parents of adolescents suffering from depression. This is surprising given that adolescence is a period of development associated with significant risk for the onset of severe depression. The aim of our study was to qualitatively examine the experience of being the parent of an adolescent (aged 11–17) who had recently been referred to child and adolescent mental health services in the United Kingdom and diagnosed with moderate to severe depression. Semistructured interviews were conducted with 48 parents. A thematic analysis revealed four main themes: parents’ ‘lack of awareness’ that their child was experiencing depression or that their child was experiencing any problem at all; the ‘emotional turmoil’ that parents were experiencing alongside that of their child; parents’ feelings of ‘helplessness’; and ‘parenting in overdrive’. Overall, the findings of our study indicate that the strain and stress that can be experienced by parents of adolescents with a diagnosis of depression, at the outset of their child’s treatment, is significant. Moreover, these parents’ experiences are comparable to those of parents of adolescents diagnosed with such disorders as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or eating disorders.


Adolescents Depression Families Parenting Qualitative 



The authors disclose receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: all three authors were supported by funding from the Monument Trust for the IMPACT-ME study, of which the present study is part. The first author was also supported by her UCL IMPACT PhD studentship funding.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research Department of Clinical, Educational and Health PsychologyUniversity College London (UCL) and the Anna Freud CentreLondonEngland, UK

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