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Using Identity and Recognition as a Framework to Understand and Promote the Resilience of Caregiving Children in Western Kenya

  • DOI:
  • Published online: 06 October 2010

Children around the world have been observed to assume caregiving responsibilities when a parent or other family members fall ill. Whilst the circumstances surrounding caregiving children in Anglophone countries have been looked at in detail, we know relatively little about how children in Africa experience young caregiving. This paper seeks to further our understanding of caregiving children in Africa by looking at how local constructions of childhood can facilitate their agency and resilience, paying particular attention to the role of identity and recognition. The study involved 48 caregiving children from Western Kenya who through individual interviews, photography and draw-and-write compositions articulated their experiences. The views of ten local adults have also been included. A thematic analysis revealed that caregiving children in Kenya are active participants in community life. Their participation is encouraged by local understandings of childhood and recognition of their efforts, enabling the children to construct positive identities that enhance their resilience. The paper argues that the way in which caregiving children in Kenya respond to their circumstances is influenced by a social recognition of their activities and agency. This recognition, mediated by local representations of childhood, allows the children to construct positive social identities that facilitate resilience. We conclude that there is a need for policy and practice on young caregiving, in all countries and contexts, to consider the role of social recognition and local constructions of childhood in shaping the resilience of caregiving children.

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Journal of Social Policy
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