The aim of this meta-synthesis was to explore young carers' accounts of caring for a family member with an illness, difficulty or disability, and to promote a phenomenological understanding of their experiences. A meta-ethnographic method of meta-synthesis was adopted, utilising the process of reciprocal translation to synthesise 11 qualitative studies. The synthesis yielded four main concepts: (1) becoming a caring person; (2) the adult child - the marks of being different; (3) who is a carer? - others' expectations and stigmatisation; and (4) keeping caring as a secret - protecting the caring role and identity. The synthesis of translation generated the higher-order concept of 'integrating caring into an emerging identity'. This concept considers the experiences of young carers as a process of identity formation in the face of persistent stressful experiences from both within and outside the caring role. The clinical implications of these findings are discussed.