To better understand the “chronic burden of care” in the United States, we focused on an underrepresented demographic of youth caregivers in families, emerging adults (EAs). EAs are a newly recognized population of youth, 18–25 years of age, who are developmentally between adolescence and young adulthood. Guided by the life span communication perspective, we interviewed 98 EAs (30 males and 68 females, M age = 19.09, SD = 1.72) about their experiences providing support to a parent with a chronic health condition. Many EAs in this study said they provided “understanding” and our interpretive thematic analyses uncovered two broad meanings of the word: it is a form of support that EAs both have and communicate. When EAs have understanding, they have knowledge about the health condition and how it affects their parent. They also have acceptance to some degree that the health condition is a fixture of their lives and that their parents are imperfect and fallible people. They communicate the understanding they have through reciprocating support, sacrificing, being obedient, avoiding sensitive topics, and projecting emotional strength. We discuss the findings and their implications for emerging adult development as well as parent-child relational development parallel to difficult long-term health issues in families.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Psychology