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Being we and being me: Exploring the needs of Austrian families with caring children

Children and adolescents with caring responsibilities are an uncontested reality in our society. Most are hidden from public view, and they perform a broad range of caring activities for chronically ill or disabled family members. The research literature has accumulated a comprehensive body of knowledge about young carers’ personal needs. However, knowledge and understanding are limited regarding the needs of young carers’ families. This knowledge can contribute to preventing children and adolescents from assuming inappropriate caring roles. A qualitative research approach was used to investigate the needs of young carers’ families in terms of managing daily caring demands. Nine family interviews were conducted with 34 individuals including 15 young carers during spring/summer 2015 in eastern Austria. Open and axial coding procedures and constant comparison method were used to analyse the data. The findings revealed that young carers’ families need to live in accordance with their inherent family logic. Family logic is generated and maintained via (i) family reciprocity that involves the natural help within the family, (ii) individual developmental space that allows family members to be perceived and act as individuals and (iii) network cooperation that offers formal and informal support and recognition from society in general. The findings contribute to understanding how families with caring children manage the caring demands of their everyday lives. The findings also indicate that formal support for families with young carers should consider the individuality of caring arrangements with respect to the holistic and personal needs and avoid stigmatising families that integrate children into caring.

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Journal article
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Health & Social Care in the Community
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