Angelina Jolie says her family helped to heal her during tough times in her life.

The Maleficent star is the mother of six children – including five-year-old twins with fiancé Brad Pitt - and reckons they helped pull her through.

The 38-year-old actress told E! News she can relate to her character in her latest film, saying: “I understood that journey.

"I've been dark, I've been hurt, I've gone walls up, angry and changed, and then children have softened me and opened me up again, and made me remember all those wonderful things and they've helped to heal me.”

She added: “Our friends can do that, our loves can do that and our children do that, so it's a wonderful thing.”

Last year she underwent a preventive double mastectomy after learning that she carried the BRCA gene, a mutation that puts a person at higher risk for breast and ovarian cancer.

Her mother, Marcheline Bertrand, died of ovarian cancer in 2007.