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The Strains and Gains of Caregiving: An Examination of the Effects of Providing Personal Care to a Parent on a Range of Indicators of Psychological Well-Being

Abstract

This study explores the effect of providing regular help with personal care to a resident or non-resident parent or parent-in-law on different aspects of psychological well-being. We use cross-sectional data from the Norwegian Life Course, Ageing and Generation (LOGG) study (N ~ 15,000, age 18–79) and two-wave panel data from the Norwegian study on Life course, Ageing and Generation (NorLAG) (N ~ 3,000, age 40–79). We separate outcomes into cognitive well-being (life satisfaction, partnership satisfaction, self-esteem), affective well-being (happiness, positive and negative affect, depression, loneliness) and sense of mastery. Caregiver status is largely unrelated to these aspects of well-being, both in cross-section and longitudinally. One notable exception is that caring for a resident (but not a non-resident) parent relates to lower affective well-being among women, also longitudinally. This effect is more marked among unpartnered and lower educated women. In addition, caring for a non-resident parent is associated with a positive change in sense of mastery among women. The results reviewed and presented indicate that caregiving has less detrimental effects in the Nordic countries than in other countries, highlighting the role of social policies and care systems in shaping the impact of caregiving on well-being.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    There is no clear distinction between the cognitive and affective components, as both have evaluative and emotional aspects (cf. Hansen 2010). For example, emotional reactions such as anger, pride, or joy usually involve also cognitive appraisals and interpretations.

  2. 2.

    Loneliness and depression refer to negative affective states or affective disorders (McDowell 2006), and can be part of the negative emotions in conceptualizations of affective well-being (Diener 1984; Lucas et al. 1996).

  3. 3.

    Of the 97 persons who provide care to a resident parent (in law), 35 persons co-reside with the care recipient according to public registers. The residual 62 caregivers likely co-reside only part-time with the care recipient, or provide care during longer visits. Most of the 62 caregivers live close to their parents.

  4. 4.

    In LOGG, 6.4 % of individuals aged 40–70 are childless and live alone. It is thus a relatively small group of caregivers that is excluded here.

  5. 5.

    We do not know if the respondent provides personal care, but if the respondent provides some form of care to a parent that needs personal care, it can be assumed that some personal care is involved.

  6. 6.

    This estimate is 4.7 % when using a weight developed by Statistics Norway to adjust for differential response rates by gender, age, region, urbanity, and education. Further, most caregivers help biological parents (n = 367); fewer help resident (n = 20) or non-resident (n = 83) parents-in-law.

  7. 7.

    Questions about ADL-needs were only posed regarding biological parents.

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Acknowledgments

This research is supported by grants from the Norwegian Research Counsil (project EqualCare 196425/V50 and NorPAN 187783).

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Correspondence to Thomas Hansen.

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Hansen, T., Slagsvold, B. & Ingebretsen, R. The Strains and Gains of Caregiving: An Examination of the Effects of Providing Personal Care to a Parent on a Range of Indicators of Psychological Well-Being. Soc Indic Res 114, 323–343 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11205-012-0148-z

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Keywords

  • Psychological well-being
  • Caregiving
  • Personal care
  • Parent
  • Norway