Parent-Care by Adult 'Only Children': Analysis of UK Cohort Data

Jenny Chanfreau , University College London (UCL)
Alice Goisis, University College London

The UK social care system relies extensively on informal carers and has been characterised as facing a care crisis. Adult children with siblings can share the responsibility, time and effort of caring for older parents, and evidence suggests that a larger network of informal carers reduces stress on adult children. Only children (defined as not having co-resident biological siblings in childhood) face this responsibility alone. On the other hand, in practice parent-care is not necessarily shared equally among adult children with siblings; research shows daughters tend to provide more care than sons in mixed-gender sibling groups. This paper investigates whether and how adult only children’s provision of parent-care differs from adult children with siblings, with the aim of exploring the implications of these patterns for only children. We analyse two large scale British birth cohort studies of individuals born in 1958 and 1970 with a focus on the help they provide to their parent(s) at ages 38 and 42 (1970 cohort) and 50 and 55 (1958 cohort). Preliminary results suggest that only children are more likely to provide some care at ages 42 and 50; moreover, among carers at age 55 only children spent more time caring. The relationships between sibling status, gender and informal care for ageing parents and wellbeing are complex and differ both at the different ages considered and by the type of parent-care measure used.

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 Presented in Session 55. Caregiving