UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

"I am the Mother and the Father" : the experiences of orphaned children caring for children in Uganda Athanasopoulos, Magdalene


In Uganda, incidences of disease and social unrest resulting in parental deaths have created a large orphan population throughout the country. This study explored the experiences of orphaned children who specifically take on the role of being both mother and father to their siblings. The researcher had discussions with 34 child-headed households throughout Uganda over the course of three months. The young people discussed their experiences of loss, reactions of self along with the reactions of the community, the vulnerabilities they face, coping with loss and daily stressors, acceptance of the role as a parent, and their hopes for the future. The findings suggest that young carers engage in behavioural and environmental adaptations in order to forget, but when the methods of coping with the stressors affecting their daily lives failed, they were thrust into a grief response. Consequently they look to education to change their lives and release them from this cycle. Support should be strengths-focussed, community-based, trustworthy, dependable and accessible; while recognizing the trade-offs and choices the young carers are required to make on a daily basis. Further research is needed to look at the effects of education on creating a life change for this population of children, how forgetting helps them to move on with their lives and what effect that has on their future, and what formal support networks could help these children achieve their hopes for the future.

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