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'I'm like her heart' : young carers' experiences of their relationships with a parent with mental health difficulties

Positive parent-child relationships are integral to child wellbeing. In the UK, it is estimated that there are 52,000 young carers caring for parents with mental health difficulties. However, there is a lack of research speaking directly to these children about their relationships with their parents. This may hinder professional understanding of these children's lived experiences. This study explored the experiences of 10 seven-to-eleven year old young carers' relationships with parents who had mental health difficulties. A qualitative design applying Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis of semi-structured interviews was used. Four super-ordinate themes were identified from the analysis of the interviews. Children said that they did not fully understand their parents' mental health and suggested that they contributed to both the cause and the care of it. The young people expressed unconditional love and loyalty to their parents, whilst outlining the mutuality of the relationship and their trust in their parents to act in their best interests. Children described their enjoyment in being with their parents and how their interactions varied dependent on their parents' mental health. Other relationships as well as those with their parents were important to the young people. The young carers disliked talking about negative feelings and experiences. They described a range of coping techniques, carried out on their own or, at times, using support from their parents, relatives, peers and young carers' organisations. This research demonstrated that children in middle childhood are well able to articulate their experiences. The findings validate the importance of listening to all the perspectives in the family, in order to ensure that services can understand and work within the family's experiences. The findings are discussed in relation to existing research on young carers and the impact of parental mental health. Clinical implications for working with these families are suggested.
Date January 2011
CreatorsDrage, Laura
PublisherUniversity of East London
Source SetsEthos UK
Detected LanguageEnglish
TypeElectronic Thesis or Dissertation

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