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The Construction of Caring Identities in Family Care of Children and Elders

Conference contribution
Authors Sofia Engström
Published in 5th Congress of the European Society on Family Relations, 29/9-2/10 2010, Milan, Italy
Publication year 2010
Published at Department of Sociology
Language en
Keywords Gender, Identity, Family care, Guilt
Subject categories Social Sciences

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. This 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. Caring responsibilities in relation to children are almost always taken as given while responsibilities in relation to elderly parents often needs to be accounted for. Work obligations can to a varying degree be used as a legitimate excuse for not caring, mainly in relation to elderly care. The caring identities are constructed in relation to other family members and their caring practises. These identities influence perceptions of care responsibilities and thereby also concrete caring practises. Gender is shaping and is shaped by the construction of caring identities and the consequent caring practices and women seem to find it harder than men to construct themselves as good carers while also investing in their careers.

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