Caring Lives: What do young people who care for family members need to thrive? An empirical investigation

Lead Research Organisation: Cardiff University
Department Name: Sch of Social Sciences


The proposal offers an original approach to the study of young carers, proposing a mixed methods approach that complements qualitative research with a longitudinal study. The research will focus on the mental health of young carers and will conclude with consideration of potential interventions that will support positive caring. It is timely given the devolved Social Services and Well-Being Act which includes the requirement to better assess and support the needs of the group.

To build on previous research and develop theory on the mechanisms underpinning young carers and mental health, in order to inform the practice required under the Social Services and Well-Being Act. Specific research questions are as follows:

1. Does longitudinal data support previous qualitative research on the mental well-being impacts of being a young carer?

2. How does the mental well-being of young carers compare with their peers?

3. What are the causal mechanisms underpinning caring and well-being?

4. What are the levers in policy and practice that can enable change and better support young carers?

5. What does an intervention for supporting positive care look like?


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P00069X/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
1945656 Studentship ES/P00069X/1 01/10/2017 30/03/2021 Edward Janes
Description The research project is still ongoing but the first stage, a realist synthesis of previous studies, is complete resulting in an initial theory on the links between young carers and mental health. The realist theory considers why the impacts of caring vary for individual young carers, with a focus on their caregiving responsibilities, the support that they receive, and whether they have a positive caregiving identity as part of their wider identity.

In considering the value of the synthesis there is the potential for the theory to inform the development future interventions through the targeting of particular mechanisms. However further work is needed to refine the theory, with a particular focus on work with unidentified and unsupported young carers who are largely absent from the theory due to a reliance in young carers research to work with known and supported young carers through young carer projects.
Exploitation Route The key findings to data are informing the next stages of the project. These are:

- A qualitative study with young carers involved in three individual interviews over a year long period, with the aim of linking change in mental health over that period to change in their wider life. Participants are young carers recruited from both schools and projects, and includes young carers who are not receiving support.

- A quantitative study with longitudinal data to compare the mental health of young carers with non-caring peers.
Sectors Education,Healthcare

Description Carers Trust Wales pilot handbook for training school leads who then train others
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Title Realist diagnostic of young carers and their mental health in the natural system 
Description The realist diagnostics is adapted from the realist synthesis method where an intervention is evaluated on the basis of its success in enabling positive change for the population. As part of this the evaluation identifies CMO (Context - Mechanism - Outcome) configurations, and which mechanisms have been targeted by the intervention with the aim of triggering change that will lead to positive outputs. The realist diagnostic amends this traditional approach by mapping the mechanisms that exist in the natural system, the contextual factors that have the potential to trigger these mechanisms and the outcomes that result. Once mapped there is the potential to identify mechanisms that could be the target of future interventions. This was developed for a study of young carers mental health. The diagnostic identified and screened past young carers studies, before analysing the resulting 45 papers to identify configurations that exist. 
Type Of Material Physiological assessment or outcome measure 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Currently the biggest impact has been in my own research. The tool has enabled the development of an initial theory which I am refining further with quantitative and qualitative methods. As of March 2020 this has not been published. However it has been submitted to a journal for publication, and I will be presenting on this work at a realist conference in March 2020. 
Description Young carers blog 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact DECIPHer blog to mark Young Carer Awareness Day, which celebrates the work of young carers but also campaigns for improved support.

The blog is entitled "How can research shape the future of young carer services?". The purpose was to highlight the role that initial young carers research had in increasing the profile of young carers in policy and legislation, and in prompting the development of support groups across the UK. This was followed by raising questions over challenges in the area of research and how these need to be resolved for research start impacting policy and practice again. The post reflects the introduction for my PhD and the framing for the Caring Lives study

It is difficult (as an online blog) to know how many people this reached but it was promoted through DECIPHer's Twitter account, with it picked up and promoted by Carers organisations in Wales and the UK.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020