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The impact of family communication about mental illness on the health and health behaviors of young adults with depression: A mixed methods study
Mental illness impacts nearly 25% of the U. S. population annually and is accompanied by a host of economic (National Alliance on Mental Health, 2014) and interpersonal difficulties for persons with these illnesses and their families (see Segrin, 2013). Despite their prevalence and effects, little to no research has examined the role of the family communication in socializing or shaping members’ understanding of and experiences with mental illness. Thus, the current dissertation employs an exploratory sequential mixed methods research design to investigate the (under)studied processes families use to communicate about mental illness. The two studies in this dissertation are grounded theoretically, in a socialization perspective, wherein families are positioned as the main sources of information and socialization for younger members. In Study One, I use communicated sense-making (CSM) (Koenig Kellas & Horstman, 2015) to explore the ways in which families communicate about mental illness. In Study Two, I use a family communication standards (FCS) (Caughlin, 2003) perspective to investigate the effects of family, mainly parental communication about mental illness on the health and health behaviors of children with depression. Using CSM as a theoretical framework, the findings from Study One revealed that families communicate about mental illness using narrative devices, including stories, attributions, as well as communicated perspective-taking (CPT). The results also suggest that family communication shapes younger members’ understanding of mental illness and their communication reinforces the stigma surrounding mental illness (e.g., Corrigan, 2004). Study Two utilized a FCS perspective (Caughlin, 2003) and the results from Study One in order to investigate the influence of certain family and interpersonal communication processes on the health and health risks of young adults’ with depression. Contrary to what was expected, treatment seeking was a non-significant mediator between parental communication and young adults’ health and health risks. Overall the findings from Study Two suggest that family communication, mainly CPT, is the strongest predictor of young adults’ health and health risks. The results further establish the relevance of family socialization in general, and the context of mental illness, in particular. Implications of these findings and recommendations for researchers, families, and practitioners are discussed.
Flood-Grady, Elizabeth, "The impact of family communication about mental illness on the health and health behaviors of young adults with depression: A mixed methods study" (2016). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI10108373.