The voice of young adults making sense of their caring childhoods: demonstrating resilience through adversity

Angela MacDonald, Katrina McLaughlin

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


The aim of the research was to give voice to young carers from Northern Ireland (NI) to gain a better understanding of the lived experience of childhood caring. Young carers in NI represent a marginalised and understudied group in comparison to their UK counterparts. Individual interviews were conducted with six females aged between 19 and 24 years old. Unstructured interviews asking only one question ‘Please tell me what it was like for you having caring responsibilities during your childhood?’ were transcribed verbatim, analysed using Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA), and had a participatory element. Analysis revealed four superordinate themes: Making sense of childhood experiences through adult eyes; An unpredictable and stressful childhood; Key people and their understanding; Onwards and upwards in transitioning forward. Participants reported difficulty understanding their caring experiences as children and how with age and comparison to others their knowledge increased. They detailed unpredictable, stressful childhoods involving juggling responsibilities in an attempt to cope. The quality of relationships appeared to influence resilience levels. Participants were not hidden but often felt ignored. Participants though, had a remarkable ability to spontaneously find benefit from their caring childhoods which seemed vital when deriving meaning and moving forward. The target audience are policy makers and professionals who are engaged in the support and service provision for young carers. Learning/key take away messages are 1) to emphasize the need for legislative changes in NI to be brought into line with UK young carer legislation 2) highlight the benefit of adopting a participatory, exploratory and open approach to enable young carers to recount their own lived experiences 3) going beyond the benefit finding to describing how their experiences shaped and enhanced their resilience and individual growth.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 09 Apr 2024
Event4th International Young Carers Conference 2024 - Manchester Metropolitan University , Manchester, United Kingdom
Duration: 09 Apr 202411 Apr 2024


Conference4th International Young Carers Conference 2024
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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