Failing to Meet the Good Parent Ideal: Self-Stigma in Parents of Children with Mental Health Disorders

Kim Eaton, Jeneva Ohan, Werner Stritzke, P.W. Corrigan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Citations (Scopus)


© 2016, Springer Science+Business Media New York.Self-stigma detracts from the wellbeing, self-esteem, and social connectedness of adults with mental health disorders. Although emerging research has indicated that self-stigma may have similar consequences for parents of children with mental health disorders, currently we lack a comprehensive description of how parents experience self-stigma. To address this, we investigated parents’ lived experiences of self-stigma using a descriptive qualitative approach. Directed by interview questions informed by a parent-based participatory action research group (n = 4), we conducted individual semi-structured interviews with 12 parents of children (aged 5–13) diagnosed with emotional and/or behavioural disorders. Data obtained from interviews with 11 mothers was coded and thematically analysed. Five themes were found: (1) the ‘good parent’ ideal, (2) awareness of external stigma, (3) outcomes of external stigma (social avoidance and self-doubt), (4) self-stigma (believing self-doubt and external stigma), and (5) refuting self-stigma. Our findings show that parents of children with mental health disorders experience self-stigma. However, because it leads to a diminished sense of being a good parent, the self-stigma is of a different type to that which has been described for adults with mental illness. This has important implications for the conceptualisation and assessment of parent self-stigma as research in this area moves forward.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3109-3123
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Child and Family Studies
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2016


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