Date of Award


Publication Type

Doctoral Thesis

Degree Name




First Advisor

La Gaipa, J.


Psychology, Clinical.



Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.


An ethogenic approach that started with accounts provided by adult children of aging parents, was used to identify social rules. Two groups of subjects, 170 adults who were care providers, and 150 university students participated. In-depth interviews were conducted with 20 caregivers to obtain accounts of parent care experiences. Out of 241 embedded statements, 65 rule-like statements were identified. Subjects rated the importance of the 65 statements with reference to one of ten parent care vignettes designed to tap situational factors. A set of 15 general social rules of parent care were identified by the sample of adult children, while 19 were identified by the sample of young adults. These rules cut across all contexts of care presented. A set of protection rules focused on the formal care providers and nursing homes. Relationship maintenance rules focused on the notion that parent care is a manifestation of love, and the need for a balance between parental regard and personal needs. Rules identified for family members dealt with participation in decision making and avoidance of criticism. A smaller set of rules emerged which were more sensitive to contextual variables. Contexts of parent care which influenced the endorsement of specific rules included having the parent reside with the adult child, limited mobility, incontinence, and the availability of someone to provide care. Some differences were found between young adults and the sample of adult children. The older respondents were more sensitive to the specifics of parent care and had fewer general rules. Young adults had a more romanticized view of parent care. Adult children felt more strongly about reciprocity of obligations and less strongly about reciprocity between generations. These subjects also implied that helping is not an obligation but a choice made easier when the parent has been previously helpful. Adult children placed notions of reciprocity in close association with notions of protection, and felt they must maintain vigilance over formal care providers, even though others may have official responsibility. The older adult children, that is those over 60, viewed parent care as more of a chore than an expression of love. They reported experiencing a conflict between parent care and the desire for earned leisure time after a lifetime of work. Satisfaction levels with the parent-child relationship decrease after parent care begins. Companionship and understanding, the most important components of the relationship before parent care begins, tends to wane, and to be replaced with helping and advice giving. Application of the findings to future research is suggested.Dept. of Psychology. Paper copy at Leddy Library: Theses & Major Papers - Basement, West Bldg. / Call Number: Thesis1990 .M246. Source: Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 52-11, Section: B, page: 6089. Chair: John J. La Gaipa. Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Windsor (Canada), 1990.