Young Adults and their Parents: The (Mis)understandings that Construct Mental Illness

Sydney Patterson


While public awareness about young people’s mental health has been on the rise, the context in which it is studied has many gaps. Adolescent mental health is often studied within the context of family relationships but the same is not true for young adults over 18 years old. Drawing on interviews with young adults who have mental illness and their parents, I found that the parent-child relationship is a relevant context in which ideas about what mental illness is are constructed. Through the conscious presentation of self within the unique expectations of this relationship and the feedback from parents or children, young adults construct definitions of mental illness which guide their ideas of self and actions in the relationship. By considering this specific relationship and life stage, I hope to contribute to a more specific understanding of the social construction of mental illness and to highlight its practical implications in the lives and relationships of young adults.


mental illness; family; young adulthood

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ISSN 2369-8721