Adult children as caregivers to elderly parents : a Mennonite exploration

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Hildebrand, Elizabeth Ann
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Research shows that the family is the main source of support for the elderly (Cicerelli, 1982). Due to the multi-cultural nature of the Canadian population, the impact of ethnicity on the familial support system has emerged as an area worthy of investigation. This study examines the parental support system of a Mennonite population in a small Southern Manitoba town in terms of the type of support provided to the parent by an adult child, the quantity of services that are provided, the quality of the intergenerational relationship and the strain associated with the caregiver role. A group of 37 respondents, including 15 adult children, 15 parents and 7 children-in-law, were interviewed separately to determine the different perceptions of the caregiving situation. A separate group of 14 members from a more conservative church, including 8 adult children and 6 parents, were interviewed as an adult children panel and a parent panel. Results indicated that the majority of adult children provided both affective and instrumental support to their parents. Emotional support was viewed by both parents and adult children as valued and vital. The low level of caregiving strain reported by adult children is partially attributed to strong affective ties which were both in evidence and expressed by both generations. The relative homogeneity of the findings was attributed to both methodological considerations and cultural and religious factors associated with the Mennonite belief system. These factors include the norms of filial responsibility; strong family ties; mutual aid and service for others. Methodological considerations include the limited size and nonrepresentativeness of the sample population.