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Daughters, not Sons, become Caregivers for their Aging Parents

Update Date: Aug 19, 2014 10:40 AM EDT

Having daughters might be better than have sons, a new study suggested. According to the study researcher, Angelina Grigoryeva, a doctoral candidate in sociology at Princeton University, women are more likely than men to do as much as they can in providing care for their aging parents.

In this study, Grigoryeva analyzed data taken from the University of Michigan Health and Retirement Study in 2004. The study collected information every two years on a nationally representative sample of more than 26,000 people over the age of 50. Grigoryeva focused on the role of daughters and sons in caring for their older parents.

Overall, she found that daughters cared for their parents an average of 12.3 hours per month whereas sons only provided an average of 5.6 hours of care. Grigoryeva also reported that the amount of care daughter and sons gave depended on the presence of other potential caregivers. For women, care increased when they had a brother, whereas care decreased in men with sisters. Grigoryeva concluded that sons tend to pass on their responsibilities to their sisters.

"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 according to the press release. "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."

Based on previous studies, Grigoryeva stated that the unequal distribution of caregiving could be detrimental for those who care more. Adult children who become caregivers have to sacrifice personal time, which can affect many aspects of their life. In addition, caring for older people can negatively impact physical and mental health.

"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."

The study, "When Gender Trumps Everything: The Division of Parent Care Among Siblings," will be presented at the American Sociological Association's 109th Annual Meeting in San Francisco, CA.

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