Anglia Ruskin Research Online (ARRO)
Thesis Final MARIE DIGGINS.pdf (1.45 MB)

What works: Researching success in parental mental health and child welfare work

Download (1.45 MB)
posted on 2023-08-30, 14:06 authored by Marie Diggins
This study investigates success in parental mental health and child welfare work. Research has established the potential direct and indirect impacts of mental illness on parenting, the parent–child relationship, and the child, and the extent to which this poses a public health challenge. Problems with how adult and children’s services understand and deliver support to parents with mental health problems and their children have also been identified. In contrast, there has been little research about how parents with mental health difficulties and their children can be supported successfully. ‘What works’, or what constitutes success in parental mental health and child welfare work is missing from the literature. This study aims to begin to address this gap by providing an original contribution to conceptualising and evaluating success in parental mental health and child welfare work. This is an exploratory study, and as such covers a diverse population, i.e. different family members, different cultural and ethnic backgrounds, parents with different diagnoses, and statutory and voluntary sector agencies. The main issue here is to cover diversity; in terms of exploring different opinions of success – both in outcomes and processes – rather than to ensure applicability of the findings to all families in which there are parents experiencing mental illness. An interpretative approach was chosen for the study (within that data) to explore these issues. This was obtained by undertaking a multiple embedded case study methodology (Yin, 2003) with 12 families and their key workers from community mental health, children’s social care and the voluntary sector. Data collection was undertaken in three stages: individual interviews with parents, children and the professionals who support them; a review of the agency case files kept about the same families; and three focus groups. Participants were asked to identify successful situations that had occurred in each case study family during the 18 months prior to interview and give details about why these situations worked out well. The focus groups were convened to discuss the emerging findings from the first two phases of data collection. An examination of emerging themes, and the interplay between themes, gives insight into the shared ideas about what works and the shared methods and practices that are associated with successful outcomes. On the basis of these similarities, the findings offer a contribution to knowledge and practice about a mode of working which seems to make it possible to succeed in helping families previously considered beyond help. What is more, the practitioners also benefit from the helping relationship in this context.



Anglia Ruskin University

File version

  • Accepted version


  • eng

Thesis name

  • PhD

Thesis type

  • Doctoral

Legacy posted date


Legacy creation date


Legacy Faculty/School/Department

Theses from Anglia Ruskin University/Faculty of Health, Social Care and Education

Usage metrics

    ARU Theses


    No categories selected


    Ref. manager