The influence of perception of forgetting and gender, ethnicity, and closeness on likelihood of caregiving

Mary Emerson Etheart, Florida International University


As life expectancy increases, the population of older adults is increasing rapidly. The caregiving of older parents by adult children has become a normative experience. Much of the gerontological literature has examined the caregiving experience, particularly in terms of the stresses involved. However, research is only beginning to examine the factors which motivate adult children to begin caregiving. The research described here examined how an elderly parent's memory behavior might influence caregiving decisions. In addition, gender, ethnicity, and parent-adult child closeness were examined to explore how these individual difference variables might influence those caregiving decisions. Participants read one of two vignettes describing a social visit with an elderly widow (target). In the vignette, the elderly target experiences several instances of forgetting. The vignettes depicted forgetting behavior established in pilot work as normal or serious. The normal forgetting vignette did not arouse concern and the serious forgetting vignette did arouse concern when the middle-aged participants imagined their mothers in the role of the vignette target. Participants rated their likelihood of engaging in eight caregiving behaviors if their mothers behaved like the vignette target. They also rated their closeness with their own mothers. Multivariate analyses of variance indicated main effects for vignette type, gender, ethnicity, and attachment. The likelihood of caregiving was higher when forgetting was more serious and when participants were female, Hispanic, and were highly attached to their mothers. Interaction effects showed that gender differences decreased with increased seriousness of forgetting, and ethnic differences were only significant for the normal forgetting condition. Multiple regression analyses indicated that attachment was the most significant predictor of likelihood of caregiving. Gender and ethnicity predicted specific caregiving behaviors. Females were more likely to engage in phoning and cooking, and Hispanics were more likely to engage in visiting and suggesting mother move in.

Subject Area

Developmental psychology|Families & family life|Personal relationships|Sociology

Recommended Citation

Etheart, Mary Emerson, "The influence of perception of forgetting and gender, ethnicity, and closeness on likelihood of caregiving" (1994). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI9512625.