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Emily Stapley

  • PhD

    Thesis Title

    Journey Through the Shadows: The Experience of Being the Parent of an Adolescent Diagnosed with Depression


    There is a growing research literature exploring the experience of being the parent of an adolescent with mental health issues. However, there has been little previous research specifically exploring the experience of being the parent of an adolescent diagnosed with depression, even though adolescence is a period of development associated with significant risk for the onset of severe depression. Consequently, this was the aim of my thesis. 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). A thematic analysis revealed four main themes: ‘lack of awareness’; ‘emotional turmoil’; ‘helplessness’; ‘parenting in overdrive’. 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. However, a thematic analysis 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. 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). An ideal-type analysis revealed three types of parental experience: the ‘learning curve’ parents; the ‘finding my own solutions’ parents; the ‘stuck’ parents. Together, these three studies highlight the ways in which parents deal with and manage the crisis that their teenage child’s diagnosis of depression presents.

    Supervised by Prof. Mary Target and Dr. Nick Midgley 

  • Selected publications

    Stapley, E., Midgley, N., & Target, M. (2015). The Experience of Being the Parent of an Adolescent with a Diagnosis of Depression. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 25(2), 618-630.

    Stapley, E., Target, M., & Midgley, N. (2017). The Journey Through and Beyond Mental Health Services in the United Kingdom: A Typology of Parents’ Ways of Managing the Crisis of Their Teenage Child’s Depression. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 73(10):1429-1441.

    Journey Through the Shadows: Click here to watch a short film co-produced with a group of parents who participated in the IMPACT study. 

    For a full list of publications, click here