NEW YORK – Parents hoping for care from their children in their old age may be better off having daughters, a report has found.
Researchers claim that daughters provide as much care as they can for their elderly mothers and fathers while sons do as little as possible.
According to a study, daughters provide an average of 12.3 hours of elderly parent care per month while sons give just 5.6 hours.
The report’s author, Angelina Grigoryeva, from Princeton University in New Jersey, said: ‘Whereas the amount of elderly parent care daughters provide is associated with constraints they face, such as employment or childcare, sons’ caregiving is associated only with the presence or absence of other helpers, such as sisters or a parent’s spouse.
‘Daughters spend twice as much time, or almost seven more hours each month, providing care to elderly parents than sons.’
The study also indicates, in the division of elderly parent care among brothers and sisters in mixed-sex sibling groups, gender is the single most important factor in the amount of assistance each sibling provides.
‘Sons reduce their relative care-giving efforts when they have a sister, while daughters increase theirs when they have a brother,’ Dr Grigoryeva added.
‘This suggests that sons pass on parent care-giving responsibilities to their sisters.’
The paper relies on data from the 2004 wave of the University of Michigan Health and Retirement Study, a study taking in more than 26,000 Americans over the age of 50 every two years.
Dr Grigoryeva believes that understanding gender inequality in care for elderly parents is important because of the impact it has on the lives of those who take on the task.
‘Numerous empirical studies report negative mental and physical health consequences, including a higher mortality rate, for people who provide care for elderly family members,’ she said.
‘In addition, these caregivers often have to balance elder care with employment, potentially resulting in career sacrifices and lower earnings.
‘Providing care for elderly relatives can also impose significant financial burdens on caregivers in the form of direct expenses, as they often pay for goods and services for their care recipients.’
She added that although, ‘the U.S. has been gradually becoming a more gender egalitarian society since the 1970s, my study shows gender inequality remains acute when it comes to elderly parent care.’
She is presenting her research at the 109th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association.