Data was collected in five countries from informal carers of older people (n = 577) via a common protocol. Carers completed: (1) a 17-item version of the Carers of Older People in Europe (COPE) Index, an assessment of carers' perceptions of their role : (2) a questionnaire on demographic and caregiving circumstances : and (3) three instruments included for the criterion validation of the COPE Index (the General Health Questionnaire, the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, and the World Health Organization Quality of Life-BREF). Principal Component Analysis of the COPE Index was followed by internal consistency analysis of emergent components. Scales derived by summing items loading on the components were analyzed for their association with the criterion measures. Two components, negative impact and positive value, emerged consistently across countries. A third component, quality of support was less consistent across countries. Scales derived from the negative impact and positive value components were internally consistent and significantly associated with the criterion validity measures. These two scales and four items drawn from the quality of support component were retained in the final COPE Index. While further testing is required, the COPE Index has current utility in increasing understanding of the role perceptions of carers of older people.