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BEHANDLING-God og treffsikker diagnostikk, behandling og rehabilitering

Children Living in Families with Parental Mental Illness and/or Substance Abuse: Participation, Competence Development and Support

Awarded: NOK 6.0 mill.

The Mosaic- project focuses on everyday life in families with parental mental illness and/or substance abuse and on professional interventions designed to support such families. We are studying possible associations between parental functioning and infant development and adaptation relevant to early intervention. Wp 1 focus on how parents and children experience their everyday lives when the parent(s) are mentally ill or have substance abuse problems. The purpose of this subproject is to get knowledge of the parents? and children?s needs and experiences in terms of formal and informal social support. Adolescents tell about shifting, sore and reversed relational experiences, as well as experiences with violence and family conflicts. They wish to be understood and have a voice in decisions about when visitation regimes and other contact with close relatives. The group of young people we have interviewed is in the Norwegian context conceptualized under one umbrella ?children next of kin? which includes children/ young people growing up with parental mental health problems, substance harmful use, or serious somatic illness. However, international literature divide these children into different groups according to parental diagnoses as children of mentally ill parents, children of drug dependent parents and so forth. In Australia and UK a widely applied category is ?young careers?, which includes nearly all kinds of parental problems, except parental harmful substance use. Very few informants recognized themselves in any of these constructed categories. They have a lot to tell about how parental problems influence daily life, about emotional and psychological pressure and stress. However, these harmful experiences are interwoven with stories of coping and getting by outside the family sphere, with friends and at school. The stories they tell reveal the active and challenging identity work these young people do to develop a coherent sense of self , and at the same time respect and keep their family together, This identity processes doesn?t necessarily fit in with the label ?next of kin? or ?young careers?. A sub question in our research has been to investigate weather growing up with parental mental illness or alcohol and drug issues are similar or different experiences. Our data indicate that living together with a parents with substance disorder, is experienced as a more stigmatized and difficult than living with parental mental illness. WP 2 is a qualitative interview study of the interface between children, parents and professional helpers. Interviews with children and youth reveal how difficult it is to tell and seek help. Young children see their family practices as normal, and have no comparison or word for parental mental illness or problematic drinking. Parental problems or difficult family issues are rarely thermalized, neither by parents, relatives, professionals or peers. At an older age, they can reflect and compare to other families. However, the children tend to believe that peers cannot understand and they have intuitively understood the rules of secrecy and protection of the family image. In addition, young people don?t know where to seek help. Despite professionals? general awareness of children affected by parental problems, they are less clear about the scope of their responsibilities. The professional services express problems in communication, and tensions are most noticeable between child protection and the other services. Personal discomfort and avoidance in professionals was identified when confronted with the complexity in these families. Another part of WP2 focuses on the direct encounter between professionals and children and on how the professionals meet and respond to children?s experiences and perspectives. The children often experience a daily life characterized by unpredictability, disturbed rituals and routines, disappointments, family conflicts and violence. Many of the children told detailed about fear, hurt relationships and difficult episodes and events. However, the group leaders rarely followed up or took initiative to contribute to further exploration of the children's painful experiences. Subproject 3 study interactions between mothers with addictions and the youngest children (6-18 months). The results indicate that there are significant correlations between different dimensions of mentalizing and executive functioning. Especially significant is the relationship between vulnerabilities in mentalizing and self-reported everyday experience of executive dysfunction. This is supposed to relate to the regulative factors lacking in everyday experience compared to the structured test situation.

This project examines how everyday life in families with parental mental illness and/or substance abuse is experienced by children and parents. The goal is to generate knowledge about the kinds of support that promote well-being for these children. Prev ious research about children living in families with parental illness and/or substance abuse has tended to focus on parental failure, adverse outcomes and risks imposed on the child. Our project positions children as participating agents and investigates the competences they develop to master everyday life. The study is interdisciplinary and grounded in two theoretical traditions: sociocultural theory and psychodynamic developmental theory. This provides us with a range of theoretical assumptions and conc epts to explain the complexity of children's development and experiences. Our ambition is to make a theoretical contribution that might provide a more contextualized and holistic understanding of these children and of the support that they consider useful . We use a multi-practice and multi-contextual approach to examine how the children deal with the different realities of various social arenas and at what costs and benefits they negotiate these different contexts. We will conduct qualitative interviews with children and parents about their everyday lives and about what services and interventions the various family members consider useful. The perspective of the youngest children is sought in terms of their behavior, interaction, and development in rela tion to maternal variables such as stress and caregiving practices. Here we use both quantitative and qualitative methods. We will also conduct participant observation of and focus-group interviews with professionals who work with these families to elicit their reflections on their work. By using several methodologies, the project examines children's experiences and voices from different perspectives in order to better understand what kinds of support they need.

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BEHANDLING-God og treffsikker diagnostikk, behandling og rehabilitering