Academic journal article Journal of Cultural Diversity

Conflict, Cultural Marginalization, and Personal Costs of Filial Caregiving

Academic journal article Journal of Cultural Diversity

Conflict, Cultural Marginalization, and Personal Costs of Filial Caregiving

Article excerpt

Abstract: This study investigated the role of cultural marginalization as factor mediating the relationship between family conflict and the perceived personal costs associated with caring for an elderly parent. Participants included forty-seven Mexican American filial caregivers residing in Colorado. Using data from structured interviews, the results of regression analysis indicated that family conflict is a significant predictor of the personal costs of caregiving. Adding the variable of cultural marginalization to the regression equation increased the amount of explained variance; supporting an hypothesis that marginalization mediates the influence of family conflict on the perceived costs of caregiving. Practice implications for mental health professionals working with Mexican American caregivers are presented, as are study limitations and suggestions for future research.

Key Words: Family Conflict, Acculturation, Mexican American Caregivers, Cultural Marginality

The Hispanic population explosion has drawn headline attention in reports and bulletins published by the U. S. Census Bureau (1996, 2008). This news has sometimes overshadowed the fact that individuals age 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the Hispanic-American population. The number of elderly Hispanics is projected to surpass the number of African American elderly by almost one million in the year 2030. By 2050, the number of elderly Hispanics will be over 12 million, of which 2.6 million will be age 85 or older (Angel & Whitefield, 2007).

The fact that more Hispanics are living longer is significant in light of the cultural preference for "la familia" as the primary setting for giving and receiving care (Herrera, Lee, Palos & Torres- Vigil, 2008). A recent national survey found that 36 percent of Hispanic households have at least one family member caring for an elderly loved one, compared to 21 percent of all U.S. households (Evercare, 2008). That more Hispanics are involved in caring for elderly family members is one factor contributing to the increase in Hispanic caregiving studies in recent years (Mier, 2007).


The purpose of this study was to investigate the role of family conflict and cultural marginalization as predictors of the personal costs of caregiving experienced by Mexican American family caregivers. The inclusion of both family conflict and cultural marginalization makes this study unique in the HisEanic caregiving literature. Although family conflict as been a variable of interest in several caregiving studies (e.g., Semole, 1992; Scharlach, Li & Dalvi, 2006; Strawbridge & Wallhagen, 1991), it has never been studied in conjunction with acculturation in Hispanic families. Similarly, the role of acculturation as a factor affecting Hispanic caregiver well-being has been explored (e.g., Snurgot & Knight, 2004), but never with a focus on cultural marginalization.

Cultural marginalization describes the expereience of individuals living within two cultures, but integrated into neither of them. As Stonequist (1937) observed in his classic work on cultural marginality, some individuals exposed to two cultures are "on the margins of each, but a member of neither" (p. 3). Whether or not this is a transitory state is unclear. What appears clear, Stonequist claimed, is that individuals experiencing marginal cultural status often experience inner turmoil and are vulnerable to stress. Given recent studies supporting Stonequist' s claim (e.g., Castillo, et al., 2008; Kim et al., 2006), the general hypothesis guiding this investigation was that marginalized Mexican American caregivers would be at risk for experiencing higher levels of perceived personal costs of caregiving, particularly in those situations in which they are also exposed to higher levels of family conflict.


Even though some studies have identified positive outcomes derived from caring for an elderly family member (e. …

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