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UBC Theses and Dissertations

What is the lived experience of resilient adolescents of mentally ill parents Fitzgerald, Pauline B.


The experience of resilient youth living with mentally ill parents is not addressed in the literature. Despite a decade of studies on resiliency, no standardized definition of resilience exists. Hence, one was created, based on research findings in the literature. An open-ended, semi-structured interview format was used to interview five women and one man raised in a home with a mentally ill parent. The experience was found as one of chaos, isolation and pain. The candidates underwent much soul searching as they developed from young to older teenagers. Support of an adult outside the home was cited as significant to their effective coping. In addition, involvement in extracurricular activities, sports and hobbies provided escape from the problems and unpredictable events at home. Acceptance of their parents' illness was associated with maturity. That is during their early teen years the youth experienced anger and frustration at their parents' inability to meet their needs. Nevertheless, while they still experienced pain due to their parents' erratic behavior, in their late teens the candidates developed empathy and understanding for their ill parents. All of the candidates cited understanding of their parents illness as key to their own healing. Unfortunately, schools were not viewed as sources of support for youth nor were mental health professionals. Candidate recommendations of how schools and professionals could support youth of parents with a mental illness are mentioned. Since no studies have attempted to address the lived experience of resilient adolescents of parents with a mental illness this study does. It is hoped the findings can enhance the concept of resiliency and provide suggestions for advancing assistance for youth of mentally ill parents.

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