Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item:
Title: Unbalancing and rebalancing as mothers: A feminist study of health professionals as mothers of adult children with schizophrenia
Contributor(s): Klages, Debra  (author); Usher, Kim  (supervisor)orcid ; East, Leah  (supervisor)orcid ; Jackson, Debra  (supervisor)
Conferred Date: 2020-07-24
Copyright Date: 2020-04
Handle Link:
Related DOI: 10.1177/1049732320936990


The aim of this study was to contribute to, advance and expand existing knowledge and understanding of health professionals who are mothers of adult children with schizophrenia by exploring their maternal and professional experiences of mental health care and support.


Worldwide, mothers provide care for their adult children who require lifelong assistance due to physical and mental illnesses. Their contributions are significant and have been recently the subject of academic inquiry. Nevertheless, there is a paucity of research focussed on the experiences of health professionals who are mothers of adult children with schizophrenia. This study describes the mothering experiences of an international group of women- health professionals as they cared for their adult children during the acute and ongoing phases of a psychotic illness (schizophrenia).


A bespoke feminist-informed storytelling research design was used to analyse and identify themes within this qualitative study. In-depth conversational interviews were conducted in person or via Skype© with 13 women, all of whom were health professionals and the biological mothers of adult children with schizophrenia.


The findings are presented as three interrelated stories, which each answered a research question. The first story reveals that negotiating care for adult children with schizophrenia was a complex process complicated by gender and by the hegemonic ruling relations within mental health systems. This process is described as mothering in the context of uncertainty: unbalancing and rebalancing as mothers. The first story describes the changes in the women’s mothering, which included disrupted mothering, reconfigured mothering and resolute mothering

The second story that arose from the findings describes how the women had juggled the demands of mothering an adult child with schizophrenia with their professional knowledges, becoming experts by experience. The second story reveals a ‘model of informed care’, in which the mothers used their additional skills and expertise to provide specialised care for their sons and daughters.

The third story told by the women was of their experiences of managing the tensions of caring and advocating for their adult children. The women used their strengths as mothers and health professionals and grew as they accepted and adapted to their changed lives. The women underwent further growth as they shared their knowledge within their professional careers.


This is the first study to explore the maternal experiences of health professionals with adult children diagnosed with schizophrenia. The research findings have important implications for mental health policies, service delivery, education and family support. Collectively, and as individuals, mental health professionals can play a major role in supporting their colleagues who are caring for daughters and sons with a lifelong mental illness

Publication Type: Thesis Doctoral
Fields of Research (FoR) 2020: 420504 Mental health nursing
420305 Health and community services
Socio-Economic Objective (SEO) 2020: 200203 Health education and promotion
200305 Mental health services
200307 Nursing
HERDC Category Description: T2 Thesis - Doctorate by Research
Description: Please contact if you require access to this thesis for the purpose of research or study.
Appears in Collections:School of Health
Thesis Doctoral

Files in This Item:
2 files
File Description SizeFormat 
Show full item record
Google Media

Google ScholarTM


Items in Research UNE are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated.