“We just needed for him to feel safe and for us to feel like we were able to give him that”
: A grounded theory study exploring the parent role in promoting children's positive mental health and preventing mental health problems

  • Rebecca Lumb

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Educational Psychology (DEdPsy)


The improvement of children’s mental health has been a governmental priority over recent years (DH & NHS, 2015; DHSC & DfE, 2017;2018), with increasing numbers of children and young people experiencing mental health difficulties (Sadler et al., 2018, PHE, 2016; WHO, 2014). Guidance positions schools as providing a key platform for the improvement of children’s mental health, through approaches the seek to identify and prevent problems, provide quicker access to support and promote resilience. Despite parents being in a prime position to promote children’s resilience and support mental health, evidence suggests that there are challenges in the way that the parent role is currently conceptualised within the agenda to improve children’s mental health. Research indicates that parents are one of the most likely persons to refer their child to a professional for support with their mental health (Crenna-Jennings & Hutchinson, 2019; Frith, 2017), this in light of rising referrals to child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHs), stretched services and increased waiting times points towards the need to explore and consider how the parent role might be supported within this context. This research adopted a constructivist grounded theory (Charmaz, 2014) approach to explore collaboratively with 11 parents of primary school aged children, how they understood their role in the promotion of their children’s positive mental health and in preventing possible mental health problems. The findings indicated that the parents saw themselves as holding the responsibility for their children’s mental health and were motivated to work alongside school in order to fulfil this role. In implementing actions to promote and support their children’s mental health, the parents experienced empowerment, disempowerment and uncertainty, drawing attention towards the need for parentally inclusive approaches that recognise and empower them within their role. The research finds implications for schools and for Educational Psychologists (EPs) in light of their unique and distinctive role working with schools, children and parents (Beaver, 2011; Cameron, 2005).
Date of Award21 Jan 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorWilliam Turner (Supervisor) & Dan P O'Hare (Supervisor)


  • Mental Health
  • Children's mental health
  • Parent role
  • Educational Psychology
  • School role
  • Promotion
  • Prevention
  • wellbeing

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