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Transitions to Caregiving, Gender, and Psychological Well-Being: A Prospective U.S. National Study

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Abstract

Guided by a life course perspective, this study examined the effects of transitioning into caregiving activity for a child, spouse, parent, other relative, or nonkin associate on nine dimensions of psychological well-being. Data came from adults ages 19–95, who were noncaregiver primary respondents in the National Survey of Families and Households in 1987–88 and who were followed up longitudinally in 1992–93 (N= 8,286). Results from multivariate regression models confirmed that the transition to caregiving for primary kin (i.e., a child, spouse, or biological parent) was associated with an increase in depressive symptoms. However in selected instances, caregiving was associated with beneficial effects (e.g., women who began to provide nonresidential care to a biological parent reported more purpose in life than noncaregiving women). Evidence regarding gender differences was inconsistent, varying across caregiving role relationship types.

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