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The Gerontologist 41:188-190 (2001)
© 2001 The Gerontological Society of America

Early Caregiving and Adult Depression

Good News for Young Caregivers

Kim Shifren, PhDa

a Towson University, MD

Correspondence: Kim Shifren, PhD, Psychology Building, Towson University, 8000 York Road, Towson, MD 21252-0001. E-mail: kshifren{at}

Laurence G. Branch, PhD

Purpose: Limited information is available on the effects of caregiving experiences on the adult development of caregivers under 21 years old in the United States. The current study provided an examination of the effects of youthful caregiving on the mental health of these persons when adults. Design and Methods: Twelve individuals, 23 to 58 years old, were given brief phone interviews with semistructured questions, and then they completed questionnaires on their early caregiving experiences and current mental health. To be included, respondents must have provided primary caregiving assistance (i.e., bathing, dressing, feeding, etc.) for at least one parent when the caregiver was under 21 years old. Results: The findings showed that individuals were young caregivers for parents with a number of problems, ranging from dementia to drug abuse. Individuals reported more positive mental health than negative mental health, and only two individuals had scores indicative of clinical depressive symptoms. Implications: It appears that early caregiving experiences may not result in universally negative consequences in the adulthood of young caregivers.

Key Words: Adulthood • CES-D • Well-being

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Copyright © 2001 by The Gerontological Society of America.