Daughters Care Twice as Much for Their Parents, Compared to Sons


Hour-for-hour, daughters spend more than twice the amount of time caring for their aging parents than sons do, according to a new analysis that found that adult women dedicate over 12 hours each month attending to their parents' needs. Men, by comparison, contribute fewer than six hours.

The statistic, presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association, is overall, unsurprising. Whether it's nurturing a newborn, looking after an ill sibling or caring for an older adult, women have always been at the forefront of caregiving efforts. Despite a modern trend towards a more gender-balanced family caregiver population, 2012 figures from the U.S. National Alliance for Caregiving still have the proportion of female family caregivers in the majority; at 66 percent.

"Sons reduce their relative caregiving efforts when they have a sister, while daughters increase theirs when they have a brother," says study author and Princeton University doctoral candidate, Angelina Grigoryeva. "This suggests that sons pass on caregiving responsibilities to their sisters."

The compound effect of conflicting interests

These findings, which were uncovered by evaluating data on more than 26,000 adults over 50 who participated in the University of Michigan Health and Retirement Study, highlight how the ongoing gap between men and women who shoulder caregiving responsibilities has wide-reaching ramifications.

Balancing work, family life and caregiving can require putting professional aspirations on hold, and prior research shows that female employees are quicker to sacrifice their careers on the caregiving pyre than their male counterparts; a move that can financially hamstring the entire family. Even worse, women with lower annual incomes are more often forced to quit their jobs because they cannot afford to hire a home health aide to cover their caregiving duties while they work.

When the career impact of caregiving is combined with the physical, emotional and financial hardships of the role, Grigoryeva argues that the challenges faced by daughters caring for their aging parents could be widening the gender gap with regards to money and health. "The U.S. has been gradually becoming a more gender egalitarian society since the 1970s," she says. But adds the caveat that this recent study "shows gender inequality remains acute when it comes to elderly parent care."

Do sons really not care?

In the wake of such findings, the discussion naturally shifts to why daughters and sons differ so drastically in their caregiving roles. The most popular arguments are usually propped up by gender stereotypes about women being humanity's natural nurturers and men being the action-oriented analysts.

Here's what some AgingCare.com caregivers have to say about the subject of male versus female caregivers:

"It's interesting to think about the similarities and differences between female and male caregivers though. With family caregivers, there's more females because women are socialized to be nurturers. Men are socialized to be the hero and fix problems—heavy burden to bear."

"I don't think the gender matters if the person has the patience and temperament for caring for others."

"What is it about the female caregiving experience that is unique? I face the same daily challenges faced by any female caregiver. We should celebrate and support all caregivers regardless of gender, age, or marital status."

"I believe that women are generally more emotionally nurturing but I think men often have problem solving skills that can make an elder feel safe and protected. I know male carers are a rising number and gender doesn't for one minute change the challenges we deal with."

What do you think? Is there really a difference between male and female family caregivers?

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I think that many times, this 'gender' thing becomes an excuse for many to not care for their parent(s). In my case, I never hear from my brothers as they have a 'life' and are too 'busy'. It's disgusting to me that they run from their 'obligations' not only to their parent(s)... (can't they even visit or talk to their parent and/or sister without 'vanishing'... let alone 'thank' their sister for taking care of their mom or day?!!).
Just stumbled onto this thread. Im. 60 year old man and I'm a long distance caregiver for my folks who are mid 80s with all the attedant elder issues.

Haven't read all the posts but did go back always. I don't agree that the original article in any way bashes men. It's an academic study that supports what most people are already aware of. Women spend more hours caregiving than men. There is no disputing this fact.

Women posters have given due credit to the men participating on this thread for their caregiving efforts. Yes, they have also lambasted their lazy brothers and husbands just like I resent my deceased sister who never lifted a finger to help my folks. It's not WOMEN GOOD, MEN BAD, it's there are good women caregivers and good male caregivers but more women take on the job.

I read nowhere in the article or any posts that all men are inherently lazy no good uncaring slobs. (That could be the title of another post)

So, what am I missing here guys?
The gender equality gap is becoming more narrow but our parents generation still holds to their older traditions. My Mom and Dad hold very clear gender roles which influence the care that is expected from my siblings and myself. My Dad has always controlled our parents finances. My mother has nothing to do with the money even though she has always worked in their business, she makes it clear that she wants nothing to do with financial management. My brother is the only person my Dad will share his financial information with albeit on a very limited scale. It's my brother who is expected to come in and help sort out the monthly bills and juggle payments. This is a huge burden for him because my Dad is making poor decisions and my brother is told to mind his own business and just do what he is told. My sister and I on the other hand are expected to give a lot more time to the physical and emotional care giving end of things.

These separate gender roles are definitely set by my parents so I wonder how much of the disparity that happens is ingrained and being dictated by the elders.