Young carers: The influence of informal caring on cognitive and social outcomes

Thursday 26 July, 1400 – 1420


Dr Diana Warren
Australian Institute of Family Studies

Using data from Longitudinal Study of Australian Children, we provide new evidence about the number of Australian adolescents who provide informal care for a family member, how much time they spend doing caring activities and the types of care provided, and the association between informal care and cognitive and social outcomes for 14–15 year olds.

We find substantial differences in cognitive outcomes among young people with caring responsibilities, compared to those who are not carers, at age 14–15. These differences are apparent even in early childhood, and continue throughout the primary school years and into high school. NAPLAN Reading and Numeracy trajectories from Year 3 to Year 9 show that cognitive outcomes of those who subsequently became carers were lower, on average, from a young age.

This result suggests that it is not only the caring activities that young carers are doing in their teens, but aspects of their early lives that have had a considerable negative influence on their cognitive outcomes. These early experiences included having a household member with a disability or health condition that requires assistance, and/or having a parent with a high level of caring responsibilities for another household member, and the associated consequences for the household financial situation and home learning environment.

For psycho-social outcomes, the findings are more positive. In fact, the evidence shows that young people who care for a household member are quite emotionally resilient. The one exception was for depressive symptoms for girls who spent five or more hours per week caring for a household member