Understanding the emotional and practical needs of parents with psychosis and those of their children.

Children and Young People's PhD Scholarship 2018:  Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford,

Supervisor: Dr Louise Johns, with Professor Jane Barlow as co-supervisor


Healthcare policy prioritises early help for vulnerable children, to improve current and future wellbeing. Children of parents with psychosis are particularly vulnerable, with increased risk of developing social and psychiatric problems. Parental mental health can impact on parents’ capacity to offer the consistent, responsive care required for healthy child development. Parents may not recognise these difficulties, or fear that their children will be removed from them, and hence do not seek help and their familial needs are poorly understood. This DPhil project will conduct a series of studies to investigate the specific needs of young children (aged 3-11) who have a primary caregiver with psychosis. It will collect information about the clinical and social circumstances of these families, and will interview parents with psychosis and their children (young and grown up) about their difficulties and support needs. The project will record parent-child interactions in a structured play situation, to understand the quality of these relationships. The study will also test associations between parenting stress, psychosis expression, and parenting behaviours in daily-life, via brief self-reports at intervals over a week. This research is an important first step in the development of psychological intervention approaches for these families, to increase positive parenting and quality of parent-child relationships, to improve health outcomes for this vulnerable group of children.

Start Date: September 2018

Scientific Goal:

The scientific goal is to identify the specific needs of parents with psychosis, the needs of their children, and the inter-relationship between them. This knowledge will inform the development and delivery of tailored interventions for these families.