England Project

The impact of involuntary maternal psychiatric hospitalization on children’s care:  An interprofessional research project

Summer 2015

Led by Caroline Long Burry, PhD, School of Social Work

Other faculty: Margarete Parrish, PhD, University of Bournemouth, UK (Social Work); Jane Ewbank, MD, St. Ann's Hospital, Poole, UK (Psychiatry)

Students (school affiliation): Ishan Dasgupta (law), Marcus Ellis (pharmacy), Caitlin McDonough (social work), Andrea Malone (nursing), Sarah Moore (social work), Andy Wall (social work, University of Bournemouth)

Project goal

The overall goal of this project is to provide a team of interprofessional students from UMB with a substantive international research opportunity on the experiences of mothers in the United Kingdom who have been involuntarily committed to a low security forensic unit of St. Ann's Hospital in Poole, England where they practice in an interprofessional setting. 


The number of incarcerated women in UK prisons has increased by 114% since 2000.  Approximately 66% of women prisoners in the UK have children under age 18; many were previously single parents. Despite these worrying trends, the existing literature about planning for the care of children of women incarcerated in the UK remains very limited; literature about planning for the care of children of women sectioned in forensic units in the UK appears non-existent. Therefore, research on the impact of maternal imprisonment is highly relevant.;

Children of imprisoned mothers experience disadvantaged outcomes in numerous areas associated with well-being (Johnson & Easterling, 2012; Hissel, et al., 2011).  Detrimental outcomes include multiple moves and caregivers (Flynn, 2013); attachment difficulties and psychopathology (Murray & Murray, 2010); school failure, truancy, and dropout (Hagan & Foster, 2012); imprisonment themselves as adults (Daillaire, 2007); social stigmatization (Pritchard, 2015), and increased diagnoses of PTSD (Bocknek, et al., 2009).  These children face the additional challenges of having a mother with serious mental illness (Jeffery et al., 2013).  Given the complex risk factors for children of sectioned mothers, examining their trajectory of care has critical safeguarding implications. Likewise, mothers’ experiences and perspectives remain a largely unstudied factor in the existing literature in the UK, which has great relevance for future efforts on behalf of mothers and children experiencing separations caused by potentially lengthy maternal hospitalizations.

Project description

This project integrated students from multiple disciplines from the graduate schools at the University of Maryland Baltimore as well as a student and faculty from the UK. The team focused on conducting qualitative research with mothers who have been involuntarily committed (“sectioned”) to a forensic unit in a psychiatric hospital under the UK Mental Health Act (MHA). Most of these mothers have diagnoses of schizophrenia and/or personality disorders, with substance use-related conditions frequently co-occurring. Mothers were interviewed about how they planned for their children's care during the time of their commitments, along with barriers to and support for these plans. In addition, the students had an opportunity to meet and engage with interprofessional staff from a psychiatric hospital in an international setting.

Project outcomes

The students collaborated together to build themselves as an interprofessional team and were able to join and benefit from engaging interprofessional teams from the UK hospital. Students and faculty from both the US and UK systems gained an increased appreciation for other disciplines and for the differences between each country's practice of the disciplines, especially in the provision of involuntary mental health services.

This project was a pilot study that was able to collect data that is not currently available in the literature. The faculty from the US and UK are submitting a funding proposal to a UK foundation to extend the research of this project. The US faculty has been invited to present at a 2016 conference being held in the UK. Faculty members will be working with the students on a manuscript to publish the results of this study as well as submit to present at a 2016 US-based conference.