Parents who experience psychosis: A qualitative exploration

Claire L. Harries, DM Smith, L Gregg, R Allott, A Wittkowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: Psychosis can present parents with complex parenting challenges and significant adverse outcomes for parents and their children have been reported. However, remarkably little is known about how parenting is experienced by these parents. Therefore, this qualitative study aimed to understand the lived experiences of parents with psychosis, including how parenting support was experienced.

Design and Methods: Using interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA), eight biological parents (five mothers and three fathers) with psychosis were recruited and interviewed from early intervention in psychosis services in the Northwest of England.

Results: Three superordinate themes and seven subordinate themes were identified. Theme 1 ‘Living with the Struggle: Painfully Disconnected’ captured a persistent parenting struggle that distanced parents from their children and support due to all-consuming experiences of psychosis, fear and risk-focused service support. Theme 2 ‘Desired and Vulnerable Position: Comfortably Connected’ captured parental experiences of symptom relief through connection with their children, alongside parental need to be integrated with the systems around them. Theme 3 ‘Exposed: Parenting Under a Spotlight’ represented parental experiences of inescapable observation and judgement from the systems around them.

Conclusions: Novel insights into the role of misaligned parent and service priorities in parental perceptions of powerlessness, shame and disconnection from their children, valued parenting identities, and system supports are presented. Systemic interventions that target stigma, provide system-wide psychoeducation and promote person-centred, compassionate and meaningful connections between parents and the systems they live within are needed to promote better parenting outcomes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)590-607
Number of pages18
JournalPsychology & Psychotherapy
Issue number3
Early online date13 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2023


  • family focused practice
  • interpretative phenomenological analysis
  • psychotic disorders
  • schizophrenia
  • serious mental illness


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