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Caregiving children in Malawi : children's work within families affected by illness and disability

Kaparounaki, Kalliopi


Kalliopi Kaparounaki



Chronic illness and disability can result in children caring for sick parents, younger siblings or grandparents. This PhD thesis examines children’s caring responsibilities in rural and urban areas in Malawi. It analyses the emotional aspects of care and examines the family as a whole system, whilst exploring the spatiality of care practices outside the home. This thesis weaves together children’s and family geographies and emotional geographies to understand the experiences of young caregiving. The research adopts the ‘new’ social studies of childhood perspective, which recognises that children play an active role in the construction and determination of their lives, the lives of those around them and of their societies. A qualitative, participatory methodology was employed as most appropriate to gain in-depth understandings of their experiences. The findings suggest that the experiences of caregiving are not simply positive or negative, but rather are complex, fluid and shaped by circumstances including extended family support, lack of adequate support and poverty. The young caregivers in this study assumed a high level of responsibility which often impacted adversely on their educational, emotional and physical needs, but overall, they experienced caregiving in a positive way and felt proud of their role. Family relationships and the way participants experienced caregiving interconnected continuously influencing one another. Caregiving relationships were predominantly reciprocal and interdependent, tangled together with dependency, unequal power between adults and children and limited, if any, agency. Chronic poverty, the lack of a formal state care system, lack of awareness and corruption impacted detrimentally upon the caregiving children and their families. To support young caregivers, this thesis calls for improvement of health and social care services for people with disabilities and chronic illness, raising awareness, adopting a family approach and fair distribution of resources.


Kaparounaki, K. (2019). Caregiving children in Malawi : children's work within families affected by illness and disability. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Publication Date Mar 1, 2019
Deposit Date Oct 30, 2019
Publicly Available Date Feb 23, 2023
Keywords Geography
Public URL
Additional Information Department of Geography, Geology and Environment, The University of Hull


Thesis (47.1 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2019 Kaparounaki, Kalliopi. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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