Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry

, Volume 41, Issue 3, pp 407–430 | Cite as

Mental Ill Health, Recovery and the Family Assemblage

  • Rhys Price-RobertsonEmail author
  • Lenore Manderson
  • Cameron Duff
Original Paper


The recovery approach is now among the most influential paradigms shaping mental health policy and practice across the English-speaking world. While recovery is normally presented as a deeply personal process, critics have challenged the individualism underpinning this view. A growing literature on “family recovery” explores the ways in which people, especially parents with mental ill health, can find it impossible to separate their own recovery experiences from the processes of family life. While sympathetic to this literature, we argue that it remains limited by its anthropocentricity, and therefore struggles to account for the varied human and nonhuman entities and forces involved in the creation and maintenance of family life. The current analysis is based on an ethnographic study conducted in Australia, which focused on families in which the father experiences mental ill health. We employ the emerging concept of the “family assemblage” to explore how the material, social, discursive and affective components of family life enabled and impeded these fathers’ recovery trajectories. Viewing families as heterogeneous assemblages allows for novel insights into some of the most basic aspects of recovery, challenging existing conceptions of the roles and significance of emotion, identity and agency in the family recovery process.


Assemblage Family assemblage Father Mental illness Recovery 



The authors acknowledge the families and service providers who generously gave their time to participate in this research. Parts of the current article were based on a separate journal article (i.e., Price-Robertson, Obradovic and Morgan 2016). This research was conducted while the first author was financially supported by an Australian Postgraduate Award, and was approved by the Monash University Human Research Ethics Committee.


This research was conducted while the first author was financially supported by an Australian Postgraduate Award, which was awarded by the Australian Federal Department of Education and Training.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The first author, Rhys Price-Robertson, declares that he has no conflict of interests. The second author, Lenore Manderson, declares that she has no conflict of interests. The third author, Cameron Duff, declares that he has no conflict of interests.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Arts, School of Social SciencesMonash UniversityClaytonAustralia
  2. 2.School of Public HealthUniversity of the WitwatersrandJohannesburgSouth Africa
  3. 3.School of ManagementRMIT UniversityMelbourneAustralia

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