Abstract: Female Caregivers and Completion of College Education: Findings from a Study in a Historically Black College and University (Society for Social Work and Research 22nd Annual Conference - Achieving Equal Opportunity, Equity, and Justice)

322P Female Caregivers and Completion of College Education: Findings from a Study in a Historically Black College and University

Friday, January 12, 2018
Marquis BR Salon 6 (ML 2) (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Erum Agha, MSW, Research Assistant, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Durham, NC
Background:More than 43.5 million caregivers have provided care for an adult or a child in 2016 and more than 60 percent of these caregivers are women. The burden of caregiving is rising steadily with 40 percent of caregivers reporting a high burden which increases with the number of hours of care provided. Caregiving is becoming a women’s issue since females shoulder most caregiving and consistently perform more and different tasks than men. Informal caregiving is on the rise and the age of caregivers is also getting younger. Often caregiving is stressful, unrecognized and, unrewarded and there are ramifications related to this role in the form of depression, isolation, lack of sleep and, resentment. For younger female caregivers who are also students, this impact is evident in their personal and educational lives with a declined performance in school interest, activities and achievement.

Methods: This mixed methods study employed a feminist methodology to examine the burden of care experienced by female college students in a Historically Black College and University in the Southeastern United States. Forty-six female students between 18-30 years of age participated in the study. All students belonged to a lower socio economic status. Data was collected using the Norbeck Social Support Questionnaire and the Life Events Questionnaire. Focus groups were also facilitated for the participants to express other experiences not covered by the questionnaires and to provide triangulation. Regression analysis and chi-square analysis were used to study correlations between caregiving burden and its impact on school attendance and performance.

Results: Based on the responses reported by the students, the age group of 18-30 was divided into two subgroups. The younger subgroup of age 18-24 expressed a need for financial support and the older subgroup expressed a need for appreciation and therapy. This correlated with the length of time of caregiving and the ideation for drop out. Other results emerged such as impact of short term vs long term caregiving on physical and mental health and performance in school. Prominent themes from the focus groups were frustration, exhaustion and need for social supports. Students reported feeling resentment associated with their caregiving status and expressed a desire to have help with caregiving. Results support the hypothesis that having adequate social supports in place will allow the female caregivers to complete their education. The study helped clarify caregiver role, burden and expectations.

Implications: The current study explored the impact of caregiving on the educational outcomes of female college students. Setting up college level supports for the female caregiver must be explored as a strategy to reduce drop out ideation and actual drop out. Completed college education is critical in providing upward social mobility to female college students from lower socio economic status. In the absence of completed education, there can be lasting financial implications on the young female caregiver. Without supports for the caregiver, both the caregiver and care recipient are at risk. In light of few published studies on female caregivers, this study aims to bridge the gap.