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The effects of parental illness and other ill family members on youth caregiving experiences

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Informed by a model of family role redistribution derived from the family ecology framework, this study examined differences in two proposed psychological components of role redistribution (youth caregiving experiences and responsibilities) between youth of a parent with illness and their peers from ‘healthy’ families controlling for the effects of whether a parent is ill or some other family member, illness type and demographics. Based on self-report questionnaire data, four groups of Australian children were derived from a community sample of 2474 youth (‘healthy’ family, n = 1768; parental illness, n = 336; other family member illness (OFMI), n = 254; both parental and OFMI, n = 116). The presence of any family member with a serious illness is associated with an intensification of youth caregiving experiences relative to peers from healthy families. This risk is elevated if the ill family member is a parent, if more illnesses are present and by certain youth and family demographics, and especially by higher caregiving responsibilities. The presence of a family member, particularly a parent, with a serious medical condition has pervasive increased effects on youth caregiving compared to healthy families, and these effects are not fully accounted for by illness type, demographics or caregiving responsibilities.
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Keywords: family health; parental illness; young carers; youth adjustment; youth caregiving

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: School of Psychology, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia 2: QUT Business School, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia

Publication date: July 3, 2015

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