Caring responsibilities, change and transitions in young people's family lives in Zambia

Caroline Day, Ruth Evans

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Despite diversity in family dynamics within and between societies, globally, it is adults who are usually relied upon to care for family members who are sick, disabled or have other care needs. Young people in Zambia and other African countries affected by the HIV epidemic are under increasing pressure to obtain a good education and employment to support their families, whilst some also have to cope with the loss of parents and care for relatives with little external support. This article discusses the findings of qualitative research that explored the experiences of young people (aged 14-30) who had significant family caring responsibilities and those without such responsibilities in Zambia. Interviews and life-mapping methods were conducted with a total of 35 young people living in rural and urban areas, 12 parents and relatives and 12 professionals. We analyse young people's experiences and perceptions of socially expected transitions, such as completing education and earning an income to support themselves and their families, in addition to more unpredictable changes in young people's family lives. ‘Critical moments’ (Thomson et al, 2002), such as bereavement and loss of parents and other family members, disinheritance of assets and property grabbing, migration and mobility between different relatives homes, parental divorce and separation, often had significant impacts on young people’s ability to navigate their pathways to adulthood according to wider social norms and expectations. A more relational conceptualisation of youth transitions is needed that takes account of young people's caring responsibilities and changing family dynamics.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)137-152
    Number of pages16
    JournalJournal of Comparative Family Studies
    Issue number1
    Early online date1 Mar 2015
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2015


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