Daughters provide as much elderly parent care as they can, sons do as little as possible

August 19, 2014, American Sociological Association

Parents are better off having daughters if they want to be cared for in their old age suggests a new study, which finds that women appear to provide as much elderly parent care as they can, while men contribute as little as possible.

"Whereas the amount of elderly parent care daughters provide is associated with constraints they face, such as employment or childcare, sons' caregiving is associated only with the presence or absence of other helpers, such as sisters or a parent's spouse," said study author Angelina Grigoryeva, a doctoral candidate in sociology at Princeton University.

According to the study, daughters provide an average of 12.3 hours of elderly parent care per month as compared to sons' 5.6 hours. "In other words, daughters spend twice as much time, or almost seven more hours each month, providing care to elderly parents than sons," said Grigoryeva, who will present her research at the 109th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association.

The study also indicates that in the division of elderly parent care among siblings in mixed-sex sibling groups, gender is the single most important factor in the amount of assistance each sibling provides.

"Sons reduce their relative caregiving efforts when they have a sister, while daughters increase theirs when they have a brother," Grigoryeva said. "This suggests that sons pass on parent caregiving responsibilities to their sisters."

Grigoryeva's paper relies on data from the 2004 wave of the University of Michigan Health and Retirement Study, a longitudinal panel study that surveys a nationally representative sample of more than 26,000 Americans over the age of 50 every two years.

In terms of the implications of her findings, Grigoryeva said the gender inequality in elderly parent care is particularly significant due to the consequences of elder care for caregivers.

"Numerous empirical studies report negative mental and physical health consequences, including a higher mortality rate, for people who provide care for elderly family members," Grigoryeva said. "In addition, these caregivers often have to balance elder care with employment, potentially resulting in career sacrifices and lower earnings. Providing care for elderly relatives can also impose significant financial burdens on caregivers in the form of direct expenses, as they often pay for goods and services for their care recipients."

Considering that caregiving for elderly parents is disproportionately the responsibility of , and previous research has shown women suffer from higher negative consequences associated with caregiving than men, the detrimental side-effects of caregiving for elderly parents could have "potentially intensifying effects on a series of gender inequalities pertaining to health and economic well-being," Grigoryeva said.

Although, "the U.S. has been gradually becoming a more gender egalitarian society since the 1970s, my study shows remains acute when it comes to elderly parent care," Grigoryeva said.

Explore further: Family conflict, patient ailments increase caregiver stress

More information: The paper, "When Gender Trumps Everything: The Division of Parent Care Among Siblings," will be presented on Tuesday, Aug. 19, at 2:30 p.m. PDT in San Francisco at the American Sociological Association's 109th Annual Meeting.

Related Stories

Taking care of mom and dad

November 20, 2013

There are some 50 million informal caregivers in the United States providing unpaid care to older family members. Some help out a couple of hours a week while others are available around the clock. These informal caregivers, ...

Recommended for you

Nanoscale Lamb wave-driven motors in nonliquid environments

March 19, 2019

Light driven movement is challenging in nonliquid environments as micro-sized objects can experience strong dry adhesion to contact surfaces and resist movement. In a recent study, Jinsheng Lu and co-workers at the College ...

OSIRIS-REx reveals asteroid Bennu has big surprises

March 19, 2019

A NASA spacecraft that will return a sample of a near-Earth asteroid named Bennu to Earth in 2023 made the first-ever close-up observations of particle plumes erupting from an asteroid's surface. Bennu also revealed itself ...

The powerful meteor that no one saw (except satellites)

March 19, 2019

At precisely 11:48 am on December 18, 2018, a large space rock heading straight for Earth at a speed of 19 miles per second exploded into a vast ball of fire as it entered the atmosphere, 15.9 miles above the Bering Sea.

Revealing the rules behind virus scaffold construction

March 19, 2019

A team of researchers including Northwestern Engineering faculty has expanded the understanding of how virus shells self-assemble, an important step toward developing techniques that use viruses as vehicles to deliver targeted ...

Levitating objects with light

March 19, 2019

Researchers at Caltech have designed a way to levitate and propel objects using only light, by creating specific nanoscale patterning on the objects' surfaces.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.