Are Young Carers Less Engaged in School than Non-Carers? Evidence from a Representative Australian Study

  • Myra HamiltonEmail author
  • Gerry Redmond


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.


Young 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.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Social Policy Research CentreUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia
  2. 2.College of Business, Government and LawFlinders UniversityAdelaideAustralia

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