Background Conservative estimates suggest there are 175,000 children and young people in the UK with caring responsibilities for a dependent relative. The level and type of care varies between families but up to 20% may be caring for 20 hours or more a week and up to 7% for over 50 hours a week. Many of these children are from single parent households and so are likely to lack the support of other adult relatives living nearby. Caring roles in young people have been associated with poor health outcomes and disruption to schooling which may limit opportunities in later life. This study explored the association between young people identified as carers and their educational achievement using data from the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England (LSYPE).
Methods LSYPE is a large-scale nationally representative cohort of young people aged 13 to 14 years in 2004 who were followed annually to explore progress through education and training. Young people were identified as having caring responsibilities or not from three self-report questions. Educational achievement at age 16 years was provided through data linkage with the National Pupil Database. The association between attainment of 5 or more GCSE and equivalents and caring responsibilities was explored using logistic regression and adjusted by other predictor variables which included; demographics, young person’s health, young person’s social behaviour, parental factors and family structure.
Results Educational data were available on 16,122 of the cohort at aged 16 years and 11,466 also had data on caring responsibilities. The final sample included 2,906 (25%) young carers and 8,560 (75%) young people without caring responsibilities. Young carers had 35% decreased odds of achieving 5 or more GCSE’s or equivalent compared to non carers within the cohort: OR 0.65 [95% CI 0.59, 0.7]). The association remained on controlling for other predictor variables: OR 0.73 [0.64, 0.83]). Detailed exploration of the associations between predictor variables, caring responsibilities and educational attainment will be presented.
Conclusion The results suggest that a young person’s caring role can have a negative impact on their outcomes in compulsory education. Even given the increased likelihood of disadvantage and health difficulties amongst young carers, they are less likely to achieve a recognised minimum standard of educational attainment and this is likely to impact on future life chances.
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