Concepts in Caregiver Research


  • This work was supported by a predoctoral fellowship from the Walther Cancer Institute.

Ms. Hunt, Ohio State University, College of Nursing, 1585 Neil Avenue, Columbus, OH 43210. E-mail:


Purpose: To clarify and delineate conceptualizations of the effects of caregiving for nursing research and practice with family caregivers.

Organizing Construct: The biopsychosocial (psychosocial and physiological) sequelae, both negative and positive, associated with providing care for a relative or friend with a chronic illness.

Methods: Literature reviewed was obtained via searches of CINAHL, MEDLINE, and PsycInfo computerized databases through mid-2002. Key words for the searches were caregiver, caregiving, family caregiving, caregiver burden, and caregiver appraisal. Reports of both earlier reviews of literature and original research were included.

Findings: Negative concepts included caregiver burden, hassles, strain, and stress. Positive concepts included caregiver esteem, uplifts of caregiving, caregiver satisfaction, finding or making meaning through caregiving, and gain in the caregiving experience. A neutral concept for describing the caregiving process is caregiver appraisal. Although earlier studies were focused on negative aspects of caregiving, more recent research has also included positive aspects.

Conclusions: More attention should be given to (a) gender and cultural differences in caregiving, (b) development of flexible interventions, and (c) the biophysical sequelae of caregiving.