The elderly population (adults 65 and over) is larger than at any time in history, thanks to improved access to healthcare, advances in medical technology, and health services focused on addressing the needs of aging adults. However, support for this growing population remains insufficient; the costs of in-home and residential care are high, and consequently, family members often become providers of informal, unpaid care. Presently, there is inadequate literature regarding the academic study of family members providing informal caregiving, especially from a perspective that emphasizes sociological principles and theories. Existing studies of the family caregiver phenomenon show that middle-aged adult daughters comprise the vast majority of those physically caring for an aging parent(s). To better understand this social fact, sociologists can examine the role of the informal caregiver by discussing its relationship to gender and identity. Using a qualitative lens, this study explored the experiences of 12 women who provide informal caregiving services for an aging parent. Participants were recruited using online advertising, purposive sampling, and snowball sampling methods. A semi-structured interview format proved fruitful for gaining insight into the experiences of women caregivers; Charmaz’s model of grounded theory (2010) was utilized to structure and analyze findings. The compiled data suggested two pervasive themes: 1) that caregiving is a gendered experience, particularly in the kinds of activities caregivers provide and in the expectations a caregiver receives from her family and herself, and 2) caregiving necessitates a great deal of identity work, particularly through the management of many social roles, role reversal of parent and child, and the degree to which a caregiver accepts or rejects the caregiving role and how that impacts the self-actualization of the caregiver role, especially as determined by positive or negative experiences with caregiving and with the care recipient.
Date of Degree
Master of Science (MS)
Sociology and Corrections
Social and Behavioral Sciences
Hurd, K. O. (2017). A Labor of Love: Women's Perspectives on Gender and Identity in Informal Caregiving [Master’s thesis, Minnesota State University, Mankato]. Cornerstone: A Collection of Scholarly and Creative Works for Minnesota State University, Mankato. https://cornerstone.lib.mnsu.edu/etds/675/
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