Theses Doctoral

Adult Children as Caregivers to Elderly Parents: Correlates and Consequences

Horowitz, Amy

Previous research has shown that adult children are the predominant service and health care providers to the impaired elderly. However, relatively little is known about the conditions under which caregiving is either enhanced or hindered. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to systematically examine the caregiving relationship in order to better understand its causes and consequences.

Data were collected via in-depth structured interviews with a sample of adult children (n = 131) identified as the primary caregiving relative to an older parent currently receiving home care or day care services. Bivariate and multivariate analytic techniques were utilized to identify the most salient variables associated with the two dependent variables of interest: caregiving involvement (the task and time commitment) and caregiving consequences (the perceived impact of providing care).

Study findings indicate that the typical caregiving child is a late middle-aged daughter who holds concurrent responsibilities to other family members as well as working outside the home. Emotional support was the most universal caregiving activity although substantial proportions also assisted with linkage tasks, instrumental services as well as financial assistance. The primary strains of caregiving were found to be the result of the emotional aspects of providing care and the restrictions on time and freedom necessitated by caregiving responsibilities.

The most salient independent predictors of caregiving involvement were: the parent's level of impairment; the quality of the parent-child affective relationship; the child's sex and marital status; and the degree of anticipatory planning for caregiving. Contrary to expectations, the child's employment status did not impinge upon fulfilling caregiving responsibilities.

The significant variables predicting perceived negative consequences included: the extent of caregiving involvement; the parent's level of impairment; the perception of unmet service needs; the quality of the parent-child affective relationship; and the child's social class, sex, and health status. The extent of formal service utilization did not emerge as a significant predictor of caregiving consequences although the qualitative data gave support to the hypothesis that service input reduced caregiving strains.

Implications for policy, practice, and service delivery in support of families caring for frail older relatives are discussed.


More About This Work

Academic Units
Social Work
Thesis Advisors
Monk, Abraham
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 22, 2015