Young Carers in Northern Ireland: Perceptions of and Responses to Illness and Disability within the Family

Marlene McGibbon, Trevor Spratt, Gavin Davidson

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This paper reports findings from a qualitative study undertaken with twenty-two young carers across Northern Ireland aged between eight and eighteen. It focuses on their experiences as informal care givers in households where at least one family member was living with an illness and/or disability. While much has been written about the quantifiable aspects of informal care including the number of hours spent caring and the physical nature of caring tasks, this approach has tended to subsume individual experiences within the category ‘young carer’ and fails to differentiate between sub populations of children and young people whose caring relationships may be very disparate. Whilst there has been a tendency to focus on the vulnerability of young carers, explanations as to why some experience greater physical, emotional and psychosocial difficulties than others are underdeveloped. It has been suggested that differential outcomes may be attributable to a capacity for resilience, which can lessen vulnerability. The study examined the protective and risk factors, which might help to promote or challenge the resilience of young carers. It was found that knowledge of and response to, both the nature and trajectory of illness or disability, contributed to young carers’ capacity for resilience.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1162-1179
Number of pages18
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Issue number5
Early online date23 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019


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