Relationships

There are clear gender differences in caregiving. There are also considerable data to indicate that the type of relationship between a caregiver and care recipient (e.g., being spouses or parent-child) affects on the experience of caregiving. It may be difficult, though, to recruit sufficient samples of a Couplesingle type of relationship (e.g., recruiting only caregivers who are spouses of a care recipient). As a consequence, separating out the effects of age, gender and relationship may be challenging. For example, older women with disabilities are most often cared for by their husbands or daughters, but older men with disabilities are most likely to be cared for by their wives or daughters. Since sons less commonly become caregivers, it can be difficult to recruit a large sample with large numbers of male and female spouses and adult children.

An additional complication is that the most common type of relationship between caregiver and care recipient can vary greatly across racial and ethnic groups. For example, there is data to indicate that older, White caregivers are more likely to be cared for by spouses than are older African Americans; the latter are more likely to be cared for by daughters.

Another issue is that the quality of the relationship between the caregiver and care recipient may have been less than optimal prior to the onset of the condition that impaired the care recipient. In these families, problems in caregiver adjustment may largely stem from the ongoing problems in interpersonal interactions, rather than to the caregiver role or type of caregiver/care recipient relationship per se.