Year

2009

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Clincal Psychology)

Department

School of Psychology

Abstract

I designed a cross-sectional prediction study for which forty-nine Australian family mental health carers were recruited as participants. The variables used to predict the Positive and Negative Experiences of Caregiving were: Identity Coherence and Identity Diffusion; Good and Bad Identity Scales; Positive Interpersonal Relationships; Perceived Locus of Control; and Personal Growth. My study was innovative in that I explored Senses of Identities in family carers and used Personal Construct Psychology as a framework. My use of both the measures, Content Analysis Scales and Modified Rating Repertory Grids was new. Seven case studies were completed. I developed and tested a personal construct model of family mental health caregiving which included the development and testing of a Family Mental Health Caregiving Journey (FMHCJ) assessment tool. Findings supported propositions of the personal construct model. I modified the model as dictated by empirical findings from both predictive tests and case studies. Positive relationship between Identity Coherence and Positive Experiences of Caregiving and between Identity Diffusion and Negative Experiences of Caregiving were found. Positive Interpersonal Relationships were found not to predict Experiences of Caregiving. However, there was a trend for scores to be higher in carer samples when compared to normative samples. Locus of Control did not predict Experiences of Caregiving. Personal Growth significantly predicted Positive Experiences of Caregiving. The implications of the study’s findings and limitations were reported. An implication of the model was that it can be used as a framework to develop group interventions for family carers. Use of the FMHCJ assessment tool in clinical and research settings was recommended, particularly as a means to attend to the impact mental illness has on carers’ identities. Ideas for further research prompted by the study included further testing of the personal construct model of family mental health caregiving.

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