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The impact of multiple caregiving roles on well-being: A longitudinal study of middle-aged adults

Danae Perez-Cahill, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This longitudinal study examined the experience of caregiving among a nationally-representative sample of 10,537 middle-aged adults participating in Wave 1 and Wave 2 of the Health and Retirement Study. Individuals were classified as parent caregivers, child caregivers, and multiple (parent and child) caregivers. The low incidence of multiple caregiving found among these middle-aged adults questions the validity of the phenomenon described as the "sandwich generation." Females comprised the majority of the parent, child, and multiple caregiving groups. Contrary to expectations, Black and Latina caregivers were not more likely than whites to hold parent and multiple caregiving roles. A high frequency of caregiving role losses and a low frequency of caregiving role assumptions occurred between Wave 1 and Wave 2. Most notable was the finding that 41% of multiple caregivers and 70% of parent caregivers in Wave 1 became noncaregivers in Wave 2. In addition, only.4% and 6.5% of women assumed multiple care and parent care, respectively. These findings suggest that the experience of caregiving during the middle-generation years is of short duration and likely to decrease over time. No support was found for the "caregiving pile up effect" (Doress-Worters, 1994) among those holding multiple caregiving roles. Rather, female caregivers experienced a decrease in well-being regardless of their caregiving role transitions, while caregivers who gained or maintained caregiving reported better physical health than those who lost caregiving. In addition, caregivers' well-being did not differ from that of noncaregivers, with the exception of ADLs (better for caregivers). Ethnicity was found to play an important and complex role in predicting transitions in caregiving and well-being. As hypothesized, being a Black or Latina caregiver who lost parent care predicted worse well-being. With regards to the maintenance or assumption of child care, however, being a minority woman accounted for worse well-being. The negative consequences of child caregiving for Latinas is especially intriguing given their greater likelihood to maintain child care. There was some support for the notion that minorities' traditional family values in support of caregiving predict better well-being for women maintaining child care or for multiple caregivers.

Subject Area

Psychotherapy|Minority & ethnic groups|Sociology|Families & family life|Personal relationships|Sociology|Social psychology

Recommended Citation

Perez-Cahill, Danae, "The impact of multiple caregiving roles on well-being: A longitudinal study of middle-aged adults" (1998). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9909202.