IMPACT-ME: The Experiences of Parents

  • Research Project Team

    Emily Stapley

    PhD supervisors: Prof Mary Target and Dr Nick Midgley

    Collaborators, IMPACT-ME team


  • Background

    Adolescence is a period of development associated with significant risk for the onset of severe depression.

    In the literature looking at the risk and causal factors for adolescent depression, family factors, such as the quality of the parent-child relationship, have received a great deal of attention.

    But what is it actually like to be a parent of a depressed teenager? Very little research has looked qualitatively at the parenting experiences of these parents.

  • Aims

    The overall aim of this research is to explore the experience of being the parent of an adolescent diagnosed with depression, over the course of their child’s illness, beginning with their child’s referral to CAMHS in the UK for treatment for depression, after their child has received a treatment intervention at CAMHS, and one year later.

  • Methodology

    The Improving Mood with Psychoanalytic And Cognitive Therapies study (IMPACT) is a large randomised controlled trial of three types of treatment for adolescent depression.

    The IMPACT-My Experience study (IMPACT-ME) is a qualitative, longitudinal study linked to this trial. My project is part of the IMPACT-ME study and focuses on the experiences of the parents of the young people with depression taking part in the IMPACT trial and the IMPACT-ME study in London.

    My project consists of three studies:

    1. Study 1 explored the experiences of 48 parents of responding to and seeking help for their child’s depressive symptoms, at the point of their child’s referral to child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) (Time 1).
    2. Study 2 explored the experiences of 12 of these parents after their child had then received a treatment intervention at CAMHS (Time 2). These parents had children who had either experienced minimal improvement (N = 6) or great improvement (N = 6) in their depressive symptoms, according to the young people’s scores on a self-report measure.
    3. The aim of Study 3 was to develop a typology of parental experience from a sample of 28 parents who had been interviewed at Time 1, Time 2, and Time 3 (one year later).
  • Results

    • A thematic analysis in Study 1 revealed four main themes: ‘lack of awareness’; ‘emotional turmoil’; ‘helplessness’; ‘parenting in overdrive’.
    • A thematic analysis in Study 2 revealed that while there was a wide range of experience within the sample as a whole, in fact there seemed to be little to discriminate between the two groups of parents in terms of the themes that arose in their interviews.
    • An ideal-type analysis in Study 3 revealed three types of parental experience: the ‘learning curve’ parents; the ‘finding my own solutions’ parents; the ‘stuck’ parents.