A qualitative study of adult sons caring for their parents

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McKay, Murray S.
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The care of older parents has become increasingly problematic for families in contemporary society. Given the current and predicted trends of popu ation aging and increased longevity, it is likely that more pressure will be placed on adult children to assume responsibility for parent care. To date, most research addressing the care of older parents has emphasized the role of adult daughter caregivers. However, it has been predicted that the increased participation of women in the labor force will cause a decrease in the number of women willing or available to provide care for older parents. In light of these predicted changes, research on the role of adult sons in parental care becomes vital. The purpose of this study was to examine how and why adult son caregivers met their parents' physical, cognitive, and emotional needs. In-depth interviews were conducted with 25 self-selected adult sons involved in their parents' care. Using the constant comparative method of analysis (Glaser and Strauss, 1967), the following themes were identified: sons' realizations of parents' need for care; patterns of care; attitudes of filial responsibility and participation in caregiving; and issues pertaining to sons' involvement in intimate care. No one conceptual framework served to adequately explain the caregiving activities of these adult sons. Rather, suggestions were made for future research to incorporate theoretical perspectives that can adequately address multiple levels of analyses. This study gave voice to a select sample of adult sons involved in parental caregiving. It provides direction for future research exploring the dynamics of adult sons' caregiving experiences and offers practical suggestions for interfacing with the normal care system.