Early Caregiver Experiences, Optimism, and Mental Health: Former Young Caregivers and Emerging Adult Caregivers (pp. 361-383)
Authors: Kim Shifren, Andrea Hillman, and Anjoli Rowe
Abstract: There is little research on the effects of very early caregiving on young caregivers’ adult mental health, and little comparison between child/adolescent caregivers and emerging adult caregivers. The purpose of the present study is to assess the possible relations between early caregiver experiences, optimism, and mental health in former young caregivers who have reached adulthood. Former young caregivers were those individuals who provided assistance with basic activities of daily living (ADLs) and/or instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs) for a parent or adult relative while under age 18 years old. Individuals were defined as “emerging adult caregivers” if they currently provide or have provided assistance with ADLs and/or IADLs for a parent or adult relative while between 18 and 29 years old. Twenty-eight former young caregivers and 21 emerging adult caregivers completed measures of their early caregiving experiences, current level of optimism, and current mental health. Individuals with higher amounts of optimism and less negative caregiver experiences reported less depressive symptoms and more well-being. Analyses revealed that optimism played a partial mediator role between negative caregiver experiences and depressive symptoms.