Children as Caregivers

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Caregiving is usually associated with adults’ responsibilities. Official statistics and research have demonstrated, however, that many children and young people in the global North and South have substantial, regular caring responsibilities for family members with chronic illnesses, impairments or other care needs.

This chapter conceptualizes children’s roles as ‘caregivers’ and the care work they do. It then analyses the available evidence on outcomes of children’s caregiving and the factors and processes influencing their involvement. While research reveals that caregiving may have positive as well as negative outcomes for children’s well-being, formal and informal safety nets are needed, especially in resource-limited settings, to alleviate children’s care work.

Children’s and families’ experiences suggest that social protection measures and support for those being cared for as well as those providing care would help to ensure that caregiving does not have long-term negative impacts on children’s personal development, education, health, family relations, peer interactions, social participation, employment opportunities and socially expected transitions to adulthood.