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Fam Process. 2000 Winter;39(4):417-34.

A child's experience of parental depression: encouraging relational resilience in families with affective illness.

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Judge Baker Children's Center, Boston, MA, USA.


In this article, we describe an approach that parents with affective illness can use to foster the emotional resilience of their children. Building on current research that emphasizes the need to formulate concepts of risk and resilience in terms of family or relational processes, we propose that affectively ill parents can promote resilience in their children by helping them express the affect they experience as a result of parental illness-related behavior. Risk and resilience are conceptualized in terms of a family's ability to process emotion or affect: a family's need to constrict affect is a risk factor, while the family's ability to elaborate affect encourages relational resilience. An object relations model is used to discuss the ways in which encouraging this elaboration of affect, especially negative affect, contributes to resilience in children. We describe ways in which a preventive intervention helps to increase parents' emotional responsiveness to their children. Using extensive narrative data from followup interviews with families and children, constriction and expansion of emotion in children concerning affectively ill parents are documented, by multiple interviewers, over a span of more than 5 years.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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