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Young Carers Research Group - Loughborough University

Pictures of Young Carers


Pictures of Young Caring

In 2007, a number of young carers took part in a photographic project that aimed to show, from the perspective of the children and young people themselves, what it is like to live with and care for a parent with serious mental illness.
After conducting a number of research studies with young carers over the years, we recognised that some children either do not want, or feel unable to take part in research studies that rely on their verbal contributions (in interviews, for example). Quite simply, some children do not want to talk about their experiences of caring in studies that use conventional research methods. The aim of the Pictures of Young Caring study, funded by the ESRC, was to enable young carers to demonstrate visually the meaningful aspects of their lives when they live with and care for parents who have serious mental health problems. The intention was to facilitate a participatory approach that meant that the children themselves were included as co researchers in the study and both controlled and took ownership of the visual data they produced.

Outputs from the study included selected publications (see below) in which some of the children’s images were used – both with and without accompanying interpretive narratives from the children themselves, according to their wishes – to illustrate some of the key themes and findings from the study. Once again, the children and young people who took part in the study made important contributions to the analytical and interpretative phases of the research and also gave informed consent for all images to be used in selected outputs.

In accordance with the further wishes of the children and young people who took part in the study, the photographic data they produced were stored in an online gallery of photographs to which they had access. For an agreed amount of time the gallery was made publicly available for others to view but not to download or copy.  This gallery is now only available to the children and young people who participated in the study.

The final published report, Pictures of Young Caring, includes more details about the participatory photographic method used in the study, as well as the content and thematic analyses conducted and further discussion about the implications of the findings. Thus, the report lends an important contextual dimension to the visual data the young people produced and the participatory method itself.

Further information: The ages of the young carers who took part in the study ranged from 9 to 17 years and all the children cared long-term for a parent with serious mental health problems (including bi polar disorder, chronic depression, schizophrenia and personality disorder).
The full report, Pictures of Young Caring can be found and downloaded from the Young Carers Research Group website here.

Further outputs from the study include:

Aldridge, J., (2015), Participatory Research: Working with Vulnerable Groups in Research and Practice, The Policy Press, Bristol.

Aldridge, J. (2014) “Working with Vulnerable Groups in Social Research: Dilemmas by Default and Design”, Qualitative Research, 14 (1), pp. 112-130.

Aldridge, J. (2014) “Participatory Research: Working with Vulnerable Groups in Social Research”, SAGE Research Methods (Case Studies):

Aldridge, J. (2012)The Participation of Vulnerable Children in Photographic Research”, Visual Studies. Volume 27, Number 1, pp. 48-58(11).