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Definitional processes and negotiations in family elderly care

Conference contribution
Authors Sofia Engström
Hans Ekbrand
Published in European Sociological Association Conferance, Lisbon, 090902-05
Publication year 2009
Published at Department of Sociology
Language en
Keywords gender, elderly care, negotiations
Subject categories Social Sciences


This paper examines how family care for elderly is arranged and how gender comes to play when family members negotiate responsibilities. Negotiations are here understood as how family members, 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, describing themselves as having the main responsibility for the care of an elderly relative. Respondents were interviewed about their caring responsibilities, working conditions, their views of their situation and how they coped with the organisation of their every day lives. We find that cognitions of commitments and responsibilities are shaped in interaction in families 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, thus public care is also a topic of negotiation in the family. In the negotiations gender is shaping and is shaped by commitments and caring practice. 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.

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