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Emotional work of getting help: a qualitative analysis of caregiver-perceived barriers to responding to childhood adversity


Objective To explore caregivers’ experiences and challenges of accessing help for adversity across both health and social care sectors.

Design Qualitative study design using semistructured interviews to explore how caregivers accessed services across health and social care. Interviews were audio recorded, transcribed verbatim and analysed using reflexive thematic analysis.

Setting Families living in the city of Wyndham, Victoria, Australia.

Participants 17 caregivers of children aged 0–8 years.

Results Five main themes emerged. (1) Emotional work of getting help. Caregivers described that getting help for life challenges was both emotionally taxing and effortful. (2) Trusting relationships are key. Engagement was related to the degree of relational practice and whether they felt judged or demeaned. (3) Wanting to manage on your own. There was a strong desire by caregivers to be independent and to only seek help when it was absolutely necessary. (4) Importance of knowing help was available and how to access it. (5) Overcoming service access barriers including long waiting times, restricted service criteria, transport issues and out-of-pocket expenses.

Conclusions Caregivers highlighted a multitude of barriers to getting help for life challenges. Addressing these barriers will require services to become more flexible and codesign best approaches with families in ongoing partnership. Improving community knowledge of available services and building trusting relationships is the first step to overcoming these barriers.

  • Healthcare Disparities
  • Child Health Services
  • Qualitative research

Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request. Full coding tree can be made available on request.

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