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.