9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN13 Sociology of Families and Intimate Lives

2009-09-05 13:30:00 2009-09-05 15:00:00 Saturday, 5 September 13:30 - 15:00 Intergenerational Relationships Building II, Auditório B1.04

Definitional processes and negotiations in family elderly care

This paper examines how men and women, working atypical hours and caring for elderly relatives, negotiate responsibilities and commitments for their elderly relatives, in relation to family members. Negotiations are here understood as how people, through explicit decision making and though practises, shape the cognition of commitments and responsibilities.
The analysis is based on semi-structured interviews with 20 persons on their working conditions and caring responsibilities.

We find that cognitions of commitments and responsibilities are shaped in interaction in families and at work places not mainly through explicit negotiations but through practises shaping work and care discourses and definitions of identity, family culture, work commitment etc., thereby also (re-)shaping the practices. The division of care work in the family is negotiated in a context where public elderly care is available but not generally accepted as a viable alternative, making the definition of public elderly care as "good enough" one possible strategy. In the negotiation of commitments, gender is shaping and is shaped by other factors or arguments, e.g. family history, emotional closeness and family culture, used in accounting for the division of responsibility for care among siblings.

These negotiations, and the conceptions and care practises they shape, are significant because they influence gender equality through defining the limits of commitments in the family and at work.