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Abstract

In many Sub-Saharan African countries, the care of chronically ill, disabled or elderly relatives is usually regarded as the responsibility of family members, within a broader landscape of often overburdened healthcare systems, the expense of medical fees, very limited access to social protection and policies that emphasise home-based care. Recent studies have demonstrated that children and youth, particularly girls and young women, take on considerable caring roles for chronically ill and elderly and young relatives in Africa. This article reviews the available research on young people’s caring roles and responsibilities within families affected by chronic illness and disability in Sub-Saharan Africa. I discuss how children’s caring roles challenge global and local constructions of childhood and suggest ways of conceptualising the socio-spatial and embodied dimensions of children’s everyday care work within diverse household forms. I analyse evidence on outcomes of caring and children’s resilience in managing their caring responsibilities and examine the complex array of processes that influence whether children take on caring roles within the family. I argue that relational, intergenerational and lifecourse approaches to researching children’s caring responsibilities within the family have considerable potential for future geographical research and could provide further insights into the ways that care is embedded in social relationships, cultural norms and structural inequalities operating in different configurations in particular places.