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National Cancer Institute

Child Caregiving in the United States

Gail Gibson Hunt
President and Chief Executive Officer
National Alliance for Caregiving
Bethesda, MD

  • According to the 2004 Child Caregivers in the United States survey, more than 900,000 households have a child caregiver (ages 8 to 18 years) providing help to a family member with a health problem or chronic illness; or who is elderly, frail, disabled, or mentally ill. Child caregivers are more likely to be found in lower income or single-parent households. Most (72 percent) are caring for a parent or grandparent who may suffer from Alzheimer disease or dementia, heart disease, lung or kidney problems, arthritis, or diabetes; 4 percent of relatives needing care have cancer.
  • Child caregivers provide assistance with activities of daily living, housework, meal preparation, and also may serve as interpreters between family members with poor English skills and health care providers. Child caregivers perform many of the same household tasks as noncaregivers, but spend more time on these tasks.
  • Analysis of behavioral problems found that child caregivers were more likely to be anxious, depressed, or to display more antisocial behavior (12 - 18 year olds). The children felt that "no one loved them" or felt worthless or inferior. Many of these children also had problems in school, due to a lack of time to study and do homework or absenteeism because of their caretaking responsibilities. Despite this, some young caregivers reported positive feelings of being appreciated for the help they were providing.

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