Library Header Image
LSE Theses Online London School of Economics web site

Young carers in Western Kenya: collective struggles and coping strategies

Skovdal, Morten (2009) Young carers in Western Kenya: collective struggles and coping strategies. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

Download (5MB) | Preview


Whilst young caregiving in Africa is not a new phenomenon, research exploring the circumstances and well-being of young carers in Africa is recent and remains scarce. However, similar to studies about orphaned children, the literature on young carers has a tendency to represent them as vulnerable and passive victims at risk of poor mental health, downplaying structural problems such as poverty and undermining the active participation of children and community members in building resilience. This thesis contributes to an already emerging critical trend that seeks to counterbalance this narrow focus by exploring how children, through an interaction with their social environment, cope with difficult circumstances. In doing so, the thesis addresses conceptual gaps in the coping literature and develops, through an iterative process, a social psychology of coping. This thesis draws on a participatory action research project that involved 48 children and 16 adults from two rural communities in the Bondo district of Kenya. Data were collected through multiple methods (daily diagrams, historical profiles, community mapping, photovoice, draw-and-write exercises, essay writing, individual interviews and group discussions) over a two-year period. The thesis provides an example of how research can be conducted through an intervention and in partnership with an NGO, illustrating how socio-ethical research can be conducted in a poor rural African setting. A thematic content analysis reveals the complex nature of caregiving and brings forward new empirical findings of young carers, including the continuity of their caregiving experiences, socio-cultural influences on caregiving as well as the kind of care they provide. The analysis also reveals some of the social and psychological coping strategies that the children draw upon. These include the children�s ability to mobilise social support, engage in income-generating activities and build positive identities based around a social recognition of their responsibilities. As a result of these empirical accounts, the thesis concludes that the ability of a child to cope is shaped by 1) the on-going negotiation between individual and community which shapes a person�s identity and access to local support networks and resources to tackle adversity, 2) the quality of the community they live in and its ability to share resources and 3) the children�s different abilities to negotiate community support. This social psychological conceptualisation of coping opens up new levels of analysis for research and intervention, which take account of the need to identify and bolster the social psychological resources evident within communities that can facilitate or hinder support. To strengthen the resilience and coping of young carers and their communities, the thesis points towards the viability of community-based capital cash transfer programmes and gives detail to the social psychological resources that can facilitate or hinder the building of orphan competent communities.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2009 Morten Skovdal
Library of Congress subject classification: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
Sets: Departments > Psychological and Behavioural Science
Supervisor: Campbell, Catherine

Actions (login required)

Record administration - authorised staff only Record administration - authorised staff only


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics