Young Adults and Their Parents: The (Mis)understandings That Define Mental Illness
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Using a symbolic interactionist perspective, I explore and identify meanings of young adult mental illness that are constructed through the relationship between young adults and their parents. Thus far, research on mental illness within the family context has focused on adolescents, while the study of young adult family relationships has ignored mental health. I situate my research at the intersection of these two fields, aiming to fill the gap by representing an overlooked population. While ambivalence is present in most young adult-parent relationships, it is exemplified here as both parties navigate concerns about the young adult’s safety and wellbeing. Young adults consciously managed what information they gave their parents about their mental health in order to best meet their needs and their perception of their parent’s needs. Though experiences varied, parents expressed concern about providing the best support they could, sometimes feeling a need to intervene in their child's problems in order to mitigate harm. Mental illness is constructed as a challenge to independence atop the usual ambivalence of young adulthood, epitomizing a typical young adult experience concentrated on one subject.