Whether doling out Christmas presents or divvying up birthday cake, parents divide their care fairly equally between their sons and daughters. But when the time comes for the kids to return the favor, girls are more likely to step up to the plate.


At least that’s according to a recent study by the American Sociological Association, which found that daughters provide more than twice the amount of care for their aging parents than sons. In fact, gender was found to be the decisive factor in the amount of care a child provides in a family that includes both male and female children.


The study analyzed data from more than 26,000 people over the age of 50. It revealed that, on average, daughters spend 12.3 hours per month caring for aging parents—while sons put in just 5.6 hours. Study author Angelina Grigoryeva of Princeton University said that the amount of care provided by daughters “is associated with constraints they face, such as employment or childcare,” while “sons’ caregiving is associated only with the presence or absence of other helpers, such as sisters or a parent’s spouse.”


Researchers highlight the demanding nature of caring for a loved one, raising questions about the emotional and physical toll that is being taken on female caregivers. According to Grigoryeva, the health consequences are serious and include a higher mortality rate for those who provide assistance to older loved ones. She also cites the negative financial effects of caregiving, such as having to make career sacrifices and the actual cost of taking care of an adult. Previous research has revealed that women experience more negative consequences related to caregiving than do men, and Grigoryeva warns of the “potentially intensifying effects on a series of gender inequalities pertaining to health and economic well-being.”


If you are taking care of a parent, don’t forget to put your own health first. Consider joining a support group—and make sure you ask for and accept all the help you can get.


Source: “Daughters Provide as Much Elderly Parent Care as They Can, Sons Do as Little as Possible”, American Sociological Association (press release), August 2014


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