Daphna Oyserman, PhD, Professor
Saturday, January 17, 2009: 8:00 AM-9:45 AM
Balcony I (New Orleans Marriott)
Background and Purpose: This symposium focuses on understanding resiliency in outcomes for teenaged children of mothers with a serious mental illness. This is an important topic because women with a serious mental illness are as likely to have children as mothers in the general population. Childbirth itself increases risk of depression, with elevated risk continuing through the early years of parenting and increasing again while parenting teens (Oyserman, et al., 2000). All told, about 40% of American adults will have a diagnosable psychiatric disorder in their lifetime, including serious mental illnesses such as major depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia (Surgeon General's Report on Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 1999). Even though it is a common problem, yet not enough is known about the consequences of maternal mental illness on outcomes for adolescents beyond impact of maternal diagnosis on teen risk of depression and anxiety. The analyses presented in the proposed symposium highlight effects beyond this simply association. While maternal diagnosis does predict youth depression and anxiety symptoms, the papers in this symposium demonstrate independent positive effects of father involvement, of maternal actions on youth substance use and delinquency, efficacy and possible selves, as well as illuminating how youth depression and anxiety has effects on youth's sense of self. Methods: Each of the three papers use a large longitudinal data set of mother-teen pairs (n = 168; mother M age at mental illness onset = 26.95, SD = 8.22). Maternal education varied, with mothers equally likely to have less than high school, high school, and at least some post-high school education. Male (n = 86) and female (n = 77) teens (Mage = 14.99, SD = 2.03, 59% African American, 31% non-Hispanic white, 7% Hispanic and 3% other race-ethnicity) were interviewed (with maternal consent and teen assent). Mothers were enrolled in a community mental health program, had care responsibility for at least one child, and were diagnosed with a serious mental illness (diagnosis with duration greater than a year that was causing major dysfunction in one or more life areas). Diagnoses were primarily of schizophrenia, major affective disorder, or bipolar disorder. Mothers were recruited from the management information system client lists of 12 community mental health agencies and 3 inpatient psychiatric units in southeast Michigan. Maternal interview data were collected first in 3 face-to-face interviews, approximately 20 months apart. Six weeks after the third maternal interview youth were interviewed (also face-to-face). The final contact was a maternal telephone interview. Results: Using structural equation and regression analyses, the results converge to demonstrate that outcomes for youth are not solely dependent on maternal diagnosis. Conclusions and Implications: Taken together, results suggest that outcomes for youth are at least in part dependent on other factors, including maternal behaviors and engagement and paternal engagement in children's lives and that these have their effects on youth symptoms but also influence other important youth behaviors and self-regulatory capacity. By assessing a broader array of youth outcomes, these studies open possibilities for intervention.
* noted as presenting author