Date of Conferral



Doctor of Public Health (DrPH)


Health Services


Cheryl Cullen


Pediatric bipolar disorder (PBD) is a growing public health problem in the United States, especially among adolescent children. Despite awareness of the diagnosis and the effects that it has on the child, little attention has been given to the effects that PBD has on the guardian. The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study was to explore the factors influencing guardians' experiences related to PBD. Penchansky and Thomas' Theory of Access and Family Systems Theory were used in this study to explore guardians lived experiences of PBD, its effects on the entire family system, and mental health service treatment. This approach was composed through interviewing 6 guardians caring for adolescents diagnosed with PBD. Interviews were conducted, transcribed and coded using NVivo12 software. The findings revealed the emergent themes as follows: disbelief of initial diagnosis, coping mechanisms, advice, barriers, burdens, stressors, and challenges. The themes described the experiences of guardians that led to feelings of denial, frustration, embarrassment, and resentment. Damaged relationships, medical problems, and financial hardships are only some of the challenges that guardians expressed during the interview. The issues that the guardians experienced provide evidence to fill the gap in the literature regarding effects on guardians. Further research into mental health services and guardians' perceptions on PBD is needed. This study promotes social change by informing mental health providers of the feelings and stressors of the guardians of PBD patients, which may lead to improved care for the family unit.