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7 December 2010 | PR 10/185

Young carers’ mental well-being compromised by long term caring

a young carer

A young carer helping with dressing.

New research has found that the longer children take on caring responsibilities in the home, the more damaging the effects of caring can be for a child’s emotional and mental well-being.

The study, which was conducted by the Manchester Carers Forum (MCF) in conjunction with Loughborough University’s Young Carers Research Group (YCRG), used in depth interviews and psychological measures among 50 young carers living in Manchester.

Some young carers develop coping strategies to deal with the psychological effects of caring, but others, in particular those children who have been caring for long periods of time, for example two years or more, do not cope well. Some children in the study have been carers for 10 years.

Dr Jo Aldridge of Loughborough University’s YCRG explains: “Long term and disproportionate caring activity among children adversely affects their health and well-being. They are less optimistic about the future and have lower self esteem. We know also know from recent research that there are far more young carers than was previously estimated, which means more children are likely to be adversely affected by long term caring responsibilities.”

Findings in the study highlighted that some young carers who are not providing care for prolonged periods cope better with the demands of caring; female young carers are more likely than males to be adversely affected by caring; and all carers in the 14-17 age group who have been caring for two years or more have lower self esteem and less interest in new things and developing relationships with others.

“Our findings clearly show that children should not be caring over long periods of time without help and support and that is essential to intervene early in family life in order to prevent children taking on inappropriate or long term caring responsibilities,” said Dave Williams, MCF Project Manager. “Whilst the research indicates resilience on the part of young carers, we must ensure that disproportionate levels of caring responsibility do not hinder the life chances of our young people.”

The study was funded by the Manchester Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services.

Interviews:  Dr Jo Aldridge and Dave Williams are available for interviews upon request. Interviews with young carers who took part in the study can also be arranged. All interview requests should be made to Debbie Hughes, Senior PR Officer at Loughborough University.

−ENDS−

For all media enquiries contact:

Debbie Hughes
Senior PR Officer
Loughborough University
T: 01509 228697
E: D.L.Hughes@lboro.ac.uk 

Notes for editors:

1.  For a summary of the study’s key findings please visit: www.lboro.ac.uk/departments/ss/centres/YCRG/youngCarersDownload/MCF_summary_Report_2.pdf

2.  For further information about the work of YCRG please visit www.ycrg.org.uk

3.  For further information about MCF please visit www.manchestercarersforum.org.uk

4.  A young carer is a child or young person under the age of 18 who helps to provide care for a sick or disabled adult in the home. This is usually a sick or disabled parent but can also sometimes be a grandparent or sibling.

5.  It is estimated that there are around 700,000 young carers in the UK (highlighted in a recent survey conducted by the BBC).

6.  Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It was awarded the coveted Sunday Times University of the Year 2008-09 title, and is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in national newspaper league tables. In the 2010 National Student Survey, Loughborough was voted one of the top universities in the UK, and has topped the Times Higher Education league for the UK’s Best Student Experience every year since the poll's inception in 2006. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, the University has been awarded six Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

Loughborough is also the UK’s premier university for sport. It has perhaps the best integrated sports development environment in the world and is home to some of the country’s leading coaches, sports scientists and support staff. It also has the country’s largest concentration of world-class training facilities across a wide range of sports.

It is a member of the 1994 Group of 19 leading research-intensive universities. The Group was established in 1994 to promote excellence in university research and teaching. Each member undertakes diverse and high-quality research, while ensuring excellent levels of teaching and student experience.

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