Are Young Carers Less Engaged in School than Non-Carers? Evidence from a Representative Australian Study
Evidence suggests that young carers are less likely to complete or do well in secondary school compared with young people without caring responsibilities. Positive engagement at school is an important correlate of school outcomes, yet quantitative evidence on the factors contributing to young carers’ school engagement is lacking. Drawing on the results of a national school-based survey of Australian children aged 8–14 years (N = 5220) in which about 9% of the sample identified as carers (N = 465), this paper compares the school engagement of non-carers, young carers of a family member with disability, and young carers of a family member with a mental illness or using alcohol/drugs. The analysis shows that school engagement of young carers of people with disability is not significantly different from that of non-carers, but school engagement among young carers of people with a mental illness or using alcohol/drugs is significantly lower. Among this latter group, young carers who are themselves with disability report particularly low levels of engagement. The study concludes that improved support focused on young carers of people with a mental illness or using alcohol/drugs is needed to improve their school engagement.
KeywordsYoung carer School engagement School outcomes Mental illness Marginalisation
This paper emerges from The Australian Child Wellbeing Project, funded by an Australian Research Council Linkage Grant (LP120100543). The authors would like to acknowledge the rest of the research team working on the project at Flinders University of South Australia, UNSW Sydney, and the Australian Council for Educational Research. We would also like to acknowledge the Partner Organisations: the Australian Government Department of Education and Training, the Australian Government Department of Social Services, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, and the Australian Bureau of Statistics. We would also like to acknowledge education departments and a number of diocese in each state and territory, and all of the staff in schools in each state and territory who supported the recruitment process. Finally, we would like to thank the children and young people who participated in this study.
- Van Acker, R., & Wehby, J. H. (2000) Exploring the social contexts influencing student success or failure: Introduction. Preventing School Failure, 44(3), 93–96.Google Scholar
- Banks, P., Cogan, N., Riddell, S., Deeley, S., Hill, M. and Tisdall., K. (2002) Does the covert nature of caring prohibit the development of effective Services for Young Carers? British Journal of Guidance and Counselling, 30(3), 229–246.Google Scholar
- Cass, B., Smyth, C., Hill, T., Blaxland, M. & Hamilton, M. (2009) Young carers in Australia: Understanding the Advantages and Disadvantages of their Care Giving. Social Policy Research Paper No. 38, Canberra: Australian Government Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs.Google Scholar
- Cass, B., Brennan, D., Thomson, C., Hill, T., Purcal, C., Hamilton, M., & Adamson, E. (2011) Young Carers: Social Policy Impacts of the Caring Responsibilities of Children and Young Adults. Report prepared for ARC Linkage Partners. https://www.sprc.unsw.edu.au/media/SPRCFile/1_Young_Carers_Report_Final_2011.pdf. October 2011. Accessed 20 May 2019.
- Clark, T. C., Fleming, T., Bullen, P., Denny, S., Crengle, S., Dyson, B., Fortune, S. et al. (2013) The health and wellbeing of New Zealand secondary school students in 2012. Auckland: The University of Auckland. https://www.fmhs.auckland.ac.nz/assets/fmhs/faculty/ahrg/docs/2012-overview.pdf. Accessed 30 March 2014
- Constantine, N., & Bernard, B. (2001). California Healthy Kids Survey Resilience Assessment Module: Technical Report. Berkeley: Public Health Institute http://crahd.phi.org/projects/HKRAtech.PDF. Accessed 20 May 2019.
- Dearden, C., & Becker, S. (2002). Young Carers and education. London: Carers UK.Google Scholar
- Gemici, S., & Lu, T. (2014) Do Schools Influence Student Engagement in the High School Years?. Longitudinal surveys of Australian youth research report no.69. https://www.ncver.edu.au/__data/assets/file/0016/8026/schools-influence-2745.pdf. Accessed 20 May 2019.
- Goffman, E. (1963). Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity. New York: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
- Hill, T., Smyth, C., Thomson, C., & Cass, B. (2009). Young Carers: Their characteristics and geographical distribution. Report to the National Youth Affairs Research Scheme, Department of Education, employment and workplace relations. Sydney: Social Policy Research Centre.Google Scholar
- Lietz, P., O'Grady, E., Tobin, M., Murphy, M., Macaskill, G., Redmond, G., Dix, K. and Thomson, S. (2015). The Australian Child Wellbeing Project: Technical Report. Retrieved from https://www.australianchildwellbeing.com.au. Accessed 16 April 2019.
- Moore, T. (2005). Young Carers and education: Identifying the barriers to satisfactory education for young Carers. Youth Studies Australia, 24(4), 50–55.Google Scholar
- Moore, T., & Barry, E. (2014). Supporting young Carers in education. Institute for Child Protection Studies Research to practice series. Canberra: Institute for Child Protection Studies.Google Scholar
- Moore, T., Morrow, R., McArthur, M., Noble-Carr, D., and Gray, J. (2006) Reading, writing and responsibility: Young Carers and education. Canberra: Institute of Child Protection Studies, ACU national for the ACT Department of disability, Housing and community services.Google Scholar
- Redmond, G., Skattebol, J., Saunders, P., Lietz, P., Zizzo, G., O’Grady, E., Tobin, M. et al. (2016) Are the kids alright? Young Australians in their middle years: Final report of the Australian Child Wellbeing Project, Flinders University, University of New South Wales and Australian Council for Educational Research.Google Scholar
- Robison, O., Egan, J., & Inglis, G. (2017). Young Carers in Glasgow: Health, wellbeing and future expectations. Glasgow: Glasgow Centre for Population Health.Google Scholar
- Robotham, D., Beecham, E., Jackson, C., & Penketh, K. (2010). MyCare: The challenges facing young Carers of parents with a severe mental illness. UK: The Princess Royal Trust for Carers and mental Health Foundation.Google Scholar
- Stamatopoulos, V. (2018). The young carer penalty: Exploring the costs of caregiving among a sample of Canadian youth. Child and Youth Services. Advance online publication, 39, 180–205. https://doi.org/10.1080/0145935X.2018.1491303.
- The Children’s Society. (2013). Hidden from view: The experiences of young Carers in England. London: The Children’s Society.Google Scholar
- Warren, D., & Edwards, B. (2017). Young Carers. In The longitudinal study of Australian children annual statistical report 2016 (pp. 85–118). Melbourne: Australian Institute of Family Studies.Google Scholar