Graduate School of Nursing Dissertations

Publication Date


Document Type

Dissertation, Doctoral


Graduate School of Nursing

Dissertation Committee Chair

Susan Sullivan-Bolyai


adult children, caregiving, management styles, parents, serious mental illness, Mentally Ill Persons, Family Relations, Mental Disorders, Parent-Child Relations

Subject Categories

Community Health and Preventive Medicine | Family, Life Course, and Society | Mental and Social Health | Mental Disorders | Nursing


The purpose of this study was to examine parents’ management styles when caring for adult children with serious mental illness (SMI), as well as parents’ perspectives on what type of community-based mental health interventions would support and/or enhance overall family functioning. This qualitative descriptive study was undergirded by Knafl and Deatrick’s Family Management Style Framework. Thirty parents (N = 30) caring for adult children with SMI over age 18 were recruited as participants. Demographic data included age, gender, ethnicity, educational level, annual income, and National Alliance on Mental Illness membership. Parents were interviewed in their homes or other private setting. Verbal informed consent was obtained. Audio-recorded, individual, semistructured interviews were conducted until redundancy was achieved. Data were analyzed using qualitative content analysis. Four major themes emerged from the data. These themes described prolonged, difficult, and confusing phases that parents and the family undergo in caring for an adult child with SMI. These phases have a progressive nature, moving from parents recognizing that their child has a SMI to redefining family life as a result of caring for an adult child with SMI. Successful management of these phases must include increasing access to mental health information, mental health screening, early interventions, violence prevention, and various treatment options for adult children and their families.


Material from this dissertation has been published in: Raymond KY, Willis DG, Sullivan-Bolyai S. Parents Caring For Adult Children With Serious Mental Illness. J Am Psychiatr Nurses Assoc. 2017 Mar/Apr;23(2):119-132. doi: 10.1177/1078390316685404. Epub 2017 Jan 6. PubMed PMID: 28060601.



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