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The relationship between parenting and mental health in parents with serious mental illness (SMI)

Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health

Dr Lynsey Gregg , Applications accepted all year round Self-Funded PhD Students Only
Manchester United Kingdom Clinical Psychology Health Psychology Mental Health Nursing Midwifery Psychology

About the Project

Raising children is a challenge for all parents. For parents with serious mental illness (SMI), such as psychosis, the challenges can be even greater. SMI can result in debilitating and distressing symptoms as well as increased sensitivity to stress. These factors, along with the impaired functioning that sometimes results from SMI, can adversely impact the parent’s ability to cope with the demands of child-rearing or decrease their satisfaction with the parental role. Stresses associated with parenting (managing the child’s behaviour, establishing routines, conflict with, or fear of judgement from others) can also impact the parent’s mental health and a feed-forward cycle of negative effects can be observed. Despite a long history of research into the impacts of SMI on child development and outcomes, very little research to date has focused on the interplay between parental mental health and parenting from the parent’s perspective.

The supervisory team have recently conducted and are currently supervising several studies investigating the impact of SMI on parents: the stresses associated with being a parent with SMI, the support parents need, and the views of health care professionals about their parenting and support needs. The ultimate aim of this body of work is to inform the development of psychological/psychosocial interventions for parents with SMI and to improve mental health services for parents.

This PhD will add to this body of work by investigating the impact of SMI on individuals who are becoming parents for the first time in the antenatal and postpartum period or by investigating temporal links between child behaviour, parental stress and symptoms in the daily life of parents with children of a wider age range. We are flexible around the exact nature of the project and expect that that the student will significantly contribute to the final research question(s) and study design(s). We have the expectation that this PhD will include a systematic literature review and at least 3 empirical studies (likely to be a mix of qualitative and quantitative designs) to be submitted in a journal-format thesis. The student will be supported to publish their studies in peer-reviewed academic journals.

Candidates are expected to hold a minimum upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) in a related area / subject and a master’s degree.   Candidates with experience in both quantitative and qualitative methods are encouraged to apply.

For information on how to apply for this project, please visit the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health Doctoral Academy website ( Informal enquiries may be made directly to the primary supervisor. On the online application form select PhD Clinical Psychology.

For international students we also offer a unique 4 year PhD programme that gives you the opportunity to undertake an accredited Teaching Certificate whilst carrying out an independent research project across a range of biological, medical and health sciences. For more information please visit

Funding Notes

Applications are invited from self-funded students. This
project has a Standard Band fee. Details of our different fee bands can be found on
our website (View Website). For
information on how to apply for this project, please visit the Faculty of
Biology, Medicine and Health Doctoral Academy website
(View Website).

Equality, diversity and inclusion is fundamental to the
success of The University of Manchester, and is at the heart of all of our
activities. The full Equality, diversity and inclusion statement can be found
on the website
View Website


Adderley, H., Wittkowski, A., Calam, R. and Gregg, L. (2020). Adult mental health practitioner beliefs about psychosis, parenting and the role of the practitioner: a Q methodological investigation. Psychology and Psychotherapy Theory, Research and Practice, 93, 657-673.
Butler, J., Gregg, L., Calam, R. and Wittkowski, A. (2020). Exploring staff implementation of a self-directed parenting intervention for parents with mental health difficulties. Community Mental Health Journal
Butler, J., Gregg, L., Calam, R. and Wittkowski, A. (2020). Parents’ perceptions and experiences of parenting programmes: A systematic review and metasynthesis of the qualitative literature. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 23, 176-20.
Strand, J., Boströmm, P. and Grip, K. (2020) Parents’ Descriptions of How Their Psychosis Affects Parenting. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 29, 620-631

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