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Identity construction in family care - Formulating Responsibility and its Boundaries or Boundlessness

Conference contribution
Authors Sofia Engström
Published in XVII World Congress of Sociology
Publication year 2010
Published at Department of Sociology
Language en
Keywords Gender, Identity, Family care, Presentation of self
Subject categories Other Social Sciences not elsewhere specified

Abstract

This paper examines how caring identities are constructed, in relation to children and care needing elderly relatives, and which practices are made possible by these identities. Special attention is paid to gender and to comparing identities in childcare and in elderly care. The analysis is based on semi-structured interviews conducted in 2008-2009 with 40 employed Swedes, caring for young children or/and elderly relatives. Respondents were interviewed about their views on their caring responsibilities and on using the Swedish municipal care provision, how they combined care and work and how caring responsibilities were distributed in their families. The paper analyses how interviewees present themselves as carers in relation to their ideas of what it means to be a good parent or a good daughter or son. Different but sometimes coinciding moral standards are used as normative models when it comes to childcare and elderly care. Gender is shaping and is shaped by the construction of caring identities and the consequent caring practices. Women seem to find it harder than men to construct themselves as good carers while also investing in their careers. The caring identities are constructed in relation to other family members and their caring practises, and hence shaped by and shaping the division of responsibilities. The construction of identities influence the perception of care responsibilities, which in turn affects concrete caring practises, as for example when feelings of insufficiency in relation to perceived care responsibilities, make the carers more prone to taking on more caring tasks.

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