Skip to navigation Skip to content

Caroline Cunningham PhD student

Psychology Research Institute
 Picture of Caroline   Cunningham

Title: Parental mental health problems and child safeguarding: prevalence, patterns and needs of children in undetected families

Start date: November 2015 (part-time)

Parental mental health problems are often present in families known to social services and are common to child protection investigations (Cleaver et al, 2011; DHSSPS, 2011). However, there is a lack of clarity about the proportion of families affected (SBNI, 2015; Parker et al, 2009). Advances in research infrastructure in Northern Ireland through the NI Longitudinal Study, Honest Broker Service and Administrative Data Research Centre NI enable the exploration of relevant datasets providing valuable information for policy makers (O’Reilly et al, 2012), including in relation to parent mental health (Wemakor, 2013; Dolk et al, 2014). There is also growing interest in exploring how routine data could promote understanding of the health of the child protection system, in parallel with increased engagement with professionals and child service users (DfE, 2015; Munro, 2011). The latter is particularly important given that many at-risk children are not identified by authorities and do not feature in available data (Jutte et al, 2015). For such children with a mentally ill parent, barriers to disclosure such as shame and fear (Cleaver et al, 2011) are important factors. Through an exploration of information from relevant datasets, this study aims to determine prevalence and patterns in the occurrence of parental mental health problems in the known population of children at risk in NI. Focus groups will also be undertaken in order to inform what would enable disclosure and contribute to detection.