Purpose: This article reports on a within-family study to identify factors that lead mothers to expect that a particular child will serve in the role of primary caregiver. Design and Methods: Data for this study were collected by in-person interviews with a representative sample of 566 mothers between the ages of 65 and 75 years residing in the greater Boston area, who provided detailed information regarding all of their adult children. Both multivariate and qualitative data analyses were conducted. Results: Emotional closeness and similarity of gender and attitudes were strongly associated with which children mothers identified as probable caregivers. Findings regarding exchange were mixed. Mothers were more likely to name adult children who had provided them with support; however, mothers' past provision of assistance to children was unrelated to expectations regarding care. No aspects of children's availability besides proximity and employment of adult children affected mothers' expectations. In selecting a primary caregiver, mothers emphasized expressive characteristics of intergenerational relationships, rather than instrumental and contextual factors associated with children's availability. Implications: The findings indicated a discrepancy between maternal preference for care and actual patterns of support from adult children. Practitioners who work with older adults and their families should incorporate parents' views of the “likely” caregiver into family counseling protocols. Family counseling in both the precaregiving and actual care provision stages may be useful to clarify expected roles for children.
The Gerontologist – Oxford University Press
Published: Aug 1, 2006
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