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Keywords:

  • Carers;
  • coping;
  • intellectual disabilities;
  • respite care

Accessible summary

  • • 
    This research was done in Ireland with carers of children with learning disability.
  • • 
    The researchers wanted to learn more about how carers cope and why carers use respite care.
  • • 
    This research found that:
    • (a) 
      There were no differences between large and small families in the amount of respite they used.
    • (b) 
      Children who needed a lot of support with personal care or who had difficult behaviours did not use respite care more than children without these needs.
    • (c) 
      Female carers mostly coped by doing something to solve problems.
    • (d) 
      Male carers mostly coped by trying to understand problems in a different way.
    • (e) 
      Male and female carers sometimes coped in similar ways, for example, seeing the funny side of problems and making sure they had free time for themselves.
  • • 
    This research will help service providers to plan and run respite care to suit families better. Other researchers will understand more about how male and female carers cope.

Summary

The study aimed to identify patterns of respite use and coping strategies among family caregivers in a region of Ireland. Firstly, we asked what child and family characteristics were associated with use of respite care. Secondly, we explored coping strategies reported by family carers. The study was undertaken with a view to informing respite service provision and redressing a gap in the literature on family caregiving. Findings differed from former research by suggesting that the likelihood of families using respite care was not significantly related to presence of challenging behaviours or level of support required by children. Additionally, likelihood of using respite care was not significantly related to family size and social support. Female carers tended to use more ‘problem solving’ strategies than males. Male carers tended to use more ‘managing meaning’ coping strategies than females, although some strategies were shared across genders. The need for carers to have confirmation of high standards of care and the importance of supporting male carers was discussed. Study limitations and implications for service provision and research were explored.