Author ORCID Identifier

Elliane Irani

Document Type


Publication Date



Introduction: Individuals with serious mental illness often have persistent and disruptive symptoms. These can profoundly affect their children's lives, exposing them to adverse social and psychological conditions. Such conditions can result in traumatic lived experiences during childhood, which can carry over into adulthood, influencing their self-perceptions and shaping their attitudes toward themselves and society. To gain insights into this phenomenon, this study explored the lived experiences of adults who grew up with a parent with serious mental illness and their perceptions of their lives in adulthood. Design: This study used an interpretive phenomenological design. Methods: Participants were invited to voluntarily participate in the study through a call posted on social media. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 30 adults (age range, 20–55 years) who grew up with a parent with serious mental illness. The interviews were recorded and transcribed, and inductive thematic analysis was used to identify main and overarching themes. Results: The overarching theme of transition from childhood survival to adulthood survival emerged and included four main themes: (1) a traumatic childhood, (2) perceived control, (3) resilience and general self-efficacy, and (4) adult quality of life. A traumatic childhood consisted of experiences of neglect and abuse, while participants used perceived control to achieve personal growth, self-care, and care of others. Resilience and general self-efficacy emerged during the transition to adulthood and helped participants further their social status and strengthen family bonds. Lastly, adult quality of life was described as being disturbed by feelings of loneliness and being burdensome, stemming from an inherent tendency to rely solely on themselves, leading to trust issues and mental health complications. Therefore, these adults found it difficult to reach out and get help or treatment for their concerns, as they initially did not want to appear dysfunctional or in need. Conclusion:This study has illuminated the lived experiences of a specific, vulnerable population that has not been intentionally explored until now. To delve into these experiences, we employed a distinctive qualitative approach, merging the interpretive phenomenological perspective with an inductive thematic analysis. This allowed for rich insight with a relatively large group of participants and enabled an in-depth exploration within this methodological framework. Consequently, this study constitutes a notable contribution to the extant body of knowledge, exploring the intricacies of personal growth and its impact on participants' quality of life. It uncovers the essence of resilience and general self-efficacy, revealing how these elements intertwine with the negative results observed. However, the study findings emphasize the need for healthcare professionals, including nurses and other caregivers, to be mindful of the long-lasting effects of the adverse experiences of children of patients with serious mental illness. Prioritizing active clinical assessment and implementing tailored interventions to address such children's specific needs and difficulties across different developmental stages is imperative. Such comprehensive and targeted approaches are crucial in providing appropriate support and promoting the well-being of these individuals. Clinical Relevance: Enhanced clinical attention in holistic psychiatric care is crucial for individuals and their relatives, especially children. Comprehensive assessments of children and adults raised by seriously mentally ill parents can enable tailored and preventive interventions, positively impacting overall quality of life.


childhood, lived experiences, mental health, parent with mental illness, quality of life, serious mental illness, survival

Publication Title

Journal of Nursing Scholarship


© 2024 The Authors. Journal of Nursing Scholarship published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of Sigma Theta Tau International.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


10.1111/jnu.12955" data-hide-no-mentions="true">
10.1111/jnu.12955" data-hide-zero-citations="true" data-style="small_circle">

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