The context of caretaking in rural areas: Family factors influencing the level of functioning of seriously mentally ill patients living at home

Laura Kohn-Wood, Melvin N. Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

16 Scopus citations


After the deinstitutionalization of psychiatric hospitals, many families became primary caregivers for seriously mentally ill individuals. Mental health services became further reduced with the advent of managed care and reductions in health and mental health care. The dearth of community-care options often results in psychiatric patients being quickly stabilized in hospital units and discharged to live with their families. The lack of community resources is particularly acute in rural areas. Given these realities the current study sought to determine if family caretaking variables are related to patient outcomes. Family factors including the perception of burden, expressed emotion (EE), and primary caregivers' social support were tested in a model of caretaking that examines the relationship between these factors and patients' symptom expression and social and occupational functioning. The sample includes 49 predominantly African American families living in a rural area and with a chronically ill family member who had been previously diagnosed with a psychotic disorder. Primary caregivers and patients were interviewed using adapted measures of burden, EE, and social support. Patients were administered a revised version of the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale. Results suggest less perceived burden, increased caregiver support and, to a lesser extent, EE explain approximately one-fifth of the variance in patient functioning. These results support previous research demonstrating the importance of family factors for seriously mentally ill patient outcomes. Results are discussed in terms of implications for assisting families in the current era of diminished resources.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican Journal of Community Psychology
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Sep 1 2005
Externally publishedYes



  • Caretaking
  • Familial factors
  • Families
  • Mental illness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychology(all)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)

Cite this