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A new study finds that daughters are more likely to be the ones caring for elderly parents than sons. / Getty Images/Comstock Images

A new study suggests parents may be more grateful to have daughters around than sons as they need care in their old age.

The study conducted by Angelina Grigoryeva, a doctoral candidate in sociology at Princeton University, found that daughters provide an average of 12.3 hours of care to their elderly parents per month, compared to sons' 5.6 hours. Grigoryeva defined elderly caregiving as helping parents with daily living tasks such as dressing, traveling, eating, medication and grocery shopping.

The study was being presented Tuesday at the American Sociological Association's 109th Annual Meeting. The study found that given the presence of a female sibling or other helpers, the sons reduce their caregiving efforts. The amount of care daughters give varies depending on their employment or number of children, but the amount of caregiving from sons remains consistently low, Grigoryeva said.

"We found that daughters provide as much (care) as they can with given constraints, but sons provide less (care) regardless of constraints," Grigoryeva said.

The study pulled data from the 2004 University of Michigan Health and Retirement Study, a longitudinal panel study that surveys a sample of more than 26,000 Americans over the age of 50. While progress has been made for gender gaps in the workforce or in child care, Grigoryeva said elderly parent care as a role largely handled by women has remained static since 1995, the earliest year this data were available.

"This means that gender probably is having a big impact throughout (women's) whole lives," said Philip Cohen, a professor of sociology at the University of Maryland. "We see part of the reason for gender gap in pay is because women spend more time out of the workforce, taking care of children, making career sacrifices for family. This suggests that parent care is also a big factor on the gender gap."

Parent care may also have an effect on the mental and physical health of the caregivers, Grigoryeva said. Previous studies have found that people who provide care for elderly family members have negative mental and physical health consequences and also have a higher mortality rate because of the stress of balancing elder care with career.

The detrimental side-effects of caregiving for elderly parents could have potentially "intensifying effects on a series of gender inequalities pertaining to health and economic well-being," Grigoryeva said.

The study suggests that gender is the most important factor in the amount of assistance an adult will provide to their elderly parents.

"We might think of (caring for elderly relatives) as practical ?? who's got time or resources," said Philip Cohen. "But this study suggests it's not time and resources, it's really the gender."



Copyright 2014USAToday

Read the original story: Elderly caregiving: Daughters, not sons, step up

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