Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Lonnie E. Duncan

Second Advisor

Dr. Mary Zwoyer Anderson

Third Advisor

Dr. Patrick H. Munley

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Douglas V. Davidson


Caregiving, Young adults, Resilience, Severely mentally ill, Perceived stress, Psychological and Social variables and mothers


This dissertation study examined the psychological and social functioning of young adults who care for their severely mentally ill mothers; in doing so this study examined the independent variables coping style, perceived stress, quality of life, and resilience. The dependent variables considered were race, socioeconomic status, support group participation, and living in the same household as one’s mother. Young adulthood was examined as a distinct period of human development. The policy of deinstitutionalization led many families to become caregivers for their severely mentally ill relatives. While some knowledge on this exists, little is known about the experiences of young adult caregivers- particularly those who care for their mothers.

Eighty-four participants completed online questionnaires. Regression and canonical correlation were used to analyze the data for four research questions. The questions were non-directional and sought to understand the relationship between a single dependent variable and several independent/predictor variables. White participants were overrepresented in the obtained sample (N=73), as were females (N=71), and members of support groups (N=80), especially online support groups (N=78).

This dissertation study found that young adult caregivers experience inordinately high levels of perceived stress and a reduction in their quality of life. Emotion-focused coping strategies, including support group participation, reduce perceived stress and increase quality of life. In contrast, problem-focused and maladaptive coping strategies increase perceived stress and reduce quality of life. The young adult caregivers report very low resilience compared to other age groups, but resilience is the biggest predictor of quality of life. These results have strong practical applications. As evidenced by their heavy use of online support groups, the current generation of young adults puts great stock in Internet social networking. Perhaps more psychoeducational resources for young adults should be located online. Considered broadly, these results advance the idea that family-centered support services improve outcomes for family caregivers; and that emphasis should be placed on emotion-focused rather than problem-solving strategies. Finally, more attention should be paid to helping young adult caregivers increase their resilience. The experiences of young adults who care for their severely mentally ill mothers is an area rich for further study.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access