Motivations to Care: Daughters- and Sons-in-Law Caring for Relatives with Alzheimers's Disease

By Globerman, Judith | Family Relations, January 1996 | Go to article overview

Motivations to Care: Daughters- and Sons-in-Law Caring for Relatives with Alzheimers's Disease


Globerman, Judith, Family Relations


Few studies have focused on caregiving daughters- and sons-in-law. In an exploratory, qualitative study of 16 daughters- and sons-in-law and their 16 spouses, 4 patterns emerged that highlighted the differences in their motivation for involvement in caregiving. Differences related to notions of obligation, reactive versus pro-active involvement, managerial roles in the family, and the differences in the impact of involvement for daughters- and sons-in-law.

Caregiving for frail elderly relatives falls predominantly to the women in the family. Research has repeatedly shown that wives, daughters, and daughters-in-law provide the bulk of the care (Coward & Dwyer, 1990; Stone, Cafferata, & Sangl, 1987). Although husbands and sons are sometimes primary caregivers, frequently they defer to their daughters, wives, and sisters (Dwyer & Coward, 1991; Matthews & Rosner, 1988; Montgomery & Kamo, 1989). Family legacy, women's traditional family roles, taboos about providing personal care across genders, attachment in families, and cultural and moral beliefs have been found to influence spouses' and adult children's decisions about involvement in caregiving (Horowitz, 1985a). Most of the research has centered on spouses' and children's experiences and little research has focused specifically on children-in-law. Little is known about whether children-inlaw construct their experiences in the same way as children. Particularly, given that blood-tied filial attachment is not involved in in-law relationships, how do children-in-law explain their decisions to become involved in caregiving?

LITERATURE REVIEW

Men and women fulfill their filial obligations differently (Horowitz, 1985b; Matthews & Rosner, 1988; Stoller, 1990; Stone, Cafferata, & Sangl, 1987). In exploring obligatory and discretionary motives for caregiving, Walker, Pratt, Shin, and Jones (1989) found that "relationship obligation," or the sense of duty to provide care, was the most frequently mentioned reason for caregiving by the 72 daughters in their study, followed by "moral beliefs" or "the right thing to do" (p. 206). Understanding from previous research that caregiving sons did fewer caregiving tasks than daughters (Birkel& Jones, 1989; Coward, 1987; Horowitz, 1985b; Matthews & Rosner, 1988), Montgomery and Kamo (1989) examined sons' and daughters' feelings of obligation. They found that sons feel as obligated as daughters to provide care, even though they do fewer actual tasks associated with caregiving and tend to assume more managerial roles.

Obligation, commitment, norms, and responsibilities have proven to be entwined in complicated fashions in adult children's caregiving accounts (Blieszner & Mancini, 1987; Blieszner & Shifflett, 1989; Walker, Pratt, Shin, & Jones, 1990). Notions of obligation are contextual and vary according to the relationship with the parent or parent-inlaw. Finley, Roberts, and Banahan (1988) found that sons' and daughters' attitudes about their obligation were similar; however, their actions were different. They also found that affection motivated daughters more than it did sons to feel obligated to care for their parents and mothers-in-law (but not fathers-in-law). However, these researchers called for expanded work on in-laws, because the variables that explained children's involvement rarely explained children-in-law involvement.

There are few studies that have examined in-law relationships and notions of obligation and affection. In a rare study on daughters-in-law, Kivett (1989) focused on associational solidarity. A1though she found attachment between daughters-in-law and their mothers-inlaw, it was not the driving motivation behind caregiving; rather, notions of obligation were emphasized.

Caregiver burden has also been studied extensively in sons and daughters, with contradictory findings. Montgomery and Kamo (1989) found that sons and daughters did not report different levels of burden, which is not consistent with other studies that found that sons experienced less burden than daughters (Horowitz, 1985b).

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