Daughters Vs Sons: Who Provides more Care giving to Elderly Parents?


It has long been believed that daughters do far more to look after their parents when they reach retirement, and may need a hand with some of the more difficult things in life. There are many emotional and financial responsibilities that go with this which are taken on without thought or care. Now, new research has been completed which confirms that whilst daughters tend to provide as much care as they can, sons will do as little as possible.

Daughters Vs Sons

The research

Research has been done by Angelina Grigoryeva whilst studying Sociology at Princeton University.  The study shows that daughters provide an average of 12.3 hours care each month whilst sons only do 5.6 hours. The research suggests that it is not relevant what the children earn or even who was born first. The primary factor is whether they are male or female. Historically, this has been assumed to be because of the maternal instincts which most women possess. However, there are other reasons including gender discrimination in the workplace or society in general.

Women have an economic disadvantage

Data from the 2004 University of Michigan Health and Retirement Study has been used as it surveys 26,000 people every two years. One of the questions, directed at retired people, in the survey is whether or not they receive assistance with household tasks. Although the research is based on the 2004 results, earlier surveys and later ones have been looked at as well. The results suggest there has been no real movement in the amount of time a daughter gives to caring for her parents as opposed to a son.

Alongside this there have been many studies performed into the rate of return to work by a woman after having a child. The research shows that over half of women do not return to work and that many companies avoid hiring women with children or at the age where they may have children. This is to avoid any issues arising from childcare needs. This syndrome is known as “The Motherhood Penalty”.

The University of Michigan survey shows that the more time women have to spare, particularly if they have not returned to work, the more time they will give to looking after their parents. They don’t look for care homes in London, but choose to be caregivers themselves.

A problem in the making

The baby boom generation are now heading for retirement. This increase in retired people will combine with an increase in women joining the workplace to provide a real problem. The issue will be a lack of enough time and resources to care for parents who need assistance. In 2006 there were 11 million seniors in need of assistance for at least one task to ensure their independent living could continue. On top of this, rates of dementia are rapidly climbing.  Sufferers can need 24 hour care.

As many seniors do not qualify for assistance and cannot afford the expensive care they become reliant on their children for assistance.  Something that might not be possible with the current set up.

Caring for parents

Many parents will require more assistance and therefore have more time dedicated to them than the children in the family. The more a family earns the more likely it is that they will pay for assistance in looking after the parents. Despite this, research shows that the more assistance a child pays for the more time they will spend looking after their parents. This could be related to a guilt complex for not being able to do all the help themselves or it could be to supervise the paid caregivers. It is important to note that caring for an elderly parent can have a significant financial impact but can also drain the carer emotional and physically.

Whilst this research provides strong indications that a daughter will provide a far higher level of care than a son it must be said that this is not always the case. There are always exceptions to the rule and the research itself confirms that a son who does not have a sister will usually provide the same level of care as a daughter would. Perhaps this lends credence to the idea of gender discrimination?

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