Supporting working parents caring for adolescents with mental health difficulties

An introduction to this Emerging Minds funded project by the lead researchers Dr Jackie Parsonage-Harrison (Oxford Brookes University) and Dr Faith Martin (Coventry University)


This study will develop a project designed to improve our understanding of the wider related determinants encountered by working parents, that affect the emotional support experienced by their children who have mental health difficulties. It will also examine how this can helpfully inform health care support and provision for both adolescents and their parents.

Our long-term aim is to develop a project that will identify, map, and prioritise the work-related determinants perceived to affect and influence the parental emotional support experienced by young people accessing mental health services, using mixed methods, and informed by an intervention mapping approach.   

We are starting this project by talking to parents to help direct our project planning and development work, which will enable us to seek further funding to carry out the research plan.

Planned Outputs

1) A research proposal outline will be developed that will be used to seek external funding in the future.

2) PPI input to ensure the research is relevant, appropriate, well targeted, and acceptable.

3) Identify and recruit parents who would be willing to continue to input into the project if funding can be secured.

History of the development of the project

The proposal for this project emerged from the Emerging Mind’s Grow researcher development program, specifically the session on engaging stakeholders, which included a focus on carers. This project brings together that learning and applies it in a real-world context, to build a research project that aims to support the supporters. By improving our understanding of the work-related determinants that influence and affect the emotional support young people with mental health difficulties experience from their working parents. And by using that knowledge to better support working parents and caregivers in their role both as carers and parents.  

Key Messages

Following the conclusion of our work together, the researchers shared the key messages behind their findings so far and identified likely future action.

The project is in its early stages, but the funding provided a valuable learning experience. As an early career researcher, experience on this project has illuminated the challenges and benefits of collaborating with different user groups and professional groups when developing research. Especially in the context of a limited time window for project completion. 

Another key message, is that to recruit parents and genuinely involve them in designing and developing research studies takes time, especially if trust is to be built. There are also multiple barriers to parental participation in research including past experience of researchers, and clinicians. There is also a need to be mindful of issues related to shame and blame. There are also practical issues around payment for involvement which is different to a one-off voucher for contributing to a focus group, which can in itself be emotionally difficult. I have learned about the importance of specifically ensuring maximum flexibility, clarity of information sharing.  

As a result of the learning on this project the decision was to pull back from the original research idea and develop a much smaller project to gain a richer insight into the views of carers in this area. In so doing we can focus on develop understanding, building relationships which could shape other projects in the future based on this initial work.